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The ‘new normal’ for offices and workspaces

North East LEP (North East LEP)

Created by North East LEP (North East LEP), 30th June 2020


Global consultancy business Turner & Townsend manages capital projects all over the world in the real estate, infrastructure and natural resources sectors.

Turner & Townsend Director, Darren Laybourn, has more than 32 years’ experience of delivering many of the North East’s most complex real estate and infrastructure programmes, and is also a member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Business Growth Board. As more people begin to return to the workplace, he takes a look at how businesses can adapt their offices and workspaces to provide safe and efficient environments for employees.

It is essential that organisations look now to the future of the workplace and identify opportunities to implement the necessary changes in order to provide a safe and efficient workspace for all staff.

With Chinese employees having their temperature checked regularly and being instructed to wear face masks around the office, what should organisations in the UK be considering as effective safety measures during the return to the office and the immediate post-crisis period?

Whilst there will undoubtedly be a shift in government policies around workspaces, and a general push towards more flexible working routines, there are things that you can be doing now which will help create an attractive and safe place to work for the future. 

How can businesses track and analyse occupancy in the office?

Check with your IT department. They may have information such as Wi-Fi statistics and entry key card usage which might offer a valid insight into the building’s usage.

Implement or utilise a desk-booking system, which will provide real-time and accurate data on the booking of desks.

Carrying out utilisation surveys will provide the clearest and most reliable source of data, allowing actual occupancy to be identified and showing what sort of work is taking place. 

How can businesses identify opportunities to reconfigure workspaces to make them safer?

Providing a workplace that ensures social distancing in the short to medium term will be essential to getting those who need to be in the workplace back and working.

Crucially, solutions needs to be cost effective, quick to implement and easy to reverse if we ever revert back to occupancy levels seen before the crisis.

To begin with, identify those happy to continue working from home and only bring back those who want or need to be back in the workplace.

Free up more desk space by converting meeting rooms into low density workstation areas, and take away seats to prevent people using adjoining desks.

Follow government guidance where available. This might include, for example, staggering work times, one way systems or desk ratios.

This checklist provides more ways of preparing buildings for employees to return, and controlling access to workplaces.

How can businesses manage footfall in the office?

Identifying areas in the office with high footfall provides a start for where to target facilities and building managers’ attention. These areas characteristically have lots of rails, handles and buttons that need to be touched and are dominated by activities that are slower to complete, resulting in people congregating.

Track and trace technology soon to be rolled out in the form of a voluntary app could receive a big boost in uptake if companies mandate employees to install the app to be allowed into the office. 

Other ways to manage footfall include opening up fire exit stairwells to reduces pressure on the main staircase and allow a one-way system to be implemented. Discourage the use of lifts for all but those who are unable to use the stairs and control access to kitchenettes or even close them completely

How can businesses ensure staff remain safe and productive in the “new normal”?

You must re-visit your workplace policies and procedures in order to ensure that staff are ready and enabled to adapt to a post-crisis normality.

Review your flexible working policy, ensuring this is communicated effectively to staff, and develop a staff satisfaction survey.

Make sure that processes are in place to support remote workers. It is essential that during times of uncertainty, the values of your organisation are clearly communicated and home workspaces are assessed to ensure they meeting health and safety guidelines

Make efforts to communicate regularly to staff, and encourage team-building and innovative engagement to improve and maintain wellbeing.

Find more tips on communicating with employees as they return to the workplace here.

Where can businesses find out more?

Find more support for businesses on the North East Growth Hub, including this checklist of workplace readiness essentials.


North East LEP (North East LEP)

Created by North East LEP (North East LEP), 2 months ago, [last edited 2 months ago]

Tagged under Covid19