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Health & safety must be focus of return to office directive

With Boris Johnson urging Brits to return to the office, health & safety and employment law experts have published a new study exploring the ways in which the workplace might need to change post-coronavirus.

A new study by health and safety experts reveals some of the ways in which life could change for employees in the UK now Boris Johnson has urged Brits to return to the office.

Image recognition technology could be used to spot Covid symptoms before staff enter the workplace, tea rounds may be banned to prevent cross-contamination and team meetings could now take place in beer gardens or outside coffee shops, according to the study by Citation.

The study also includes isometric floor plans illustrating what various areas of the workplace, including toilets, receptions, kitchens and break areas, might look like in a post-lockdown world.

Gillian McAteer, head of employment law at Citation, said: “Businesses may need to implement a number of creative measures in order to enforce hygiene, safety and social distancing in the office. It could also require them to entirely re-think whole areas of their workplace, including break areas, toilets and meeting rooms.”

One of the changes proposed by Citation’s report ‘The Future Of The Workplace’ is to have team meetings take place outdoors, such as in parks, beer gardens or outside coffee shops, as social distancing would be difficult in traditional meeting rooms.

Futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson, who contributed to the study, said: “If it’s a nice day, have your meeting outside on the grass. That is an awful lot safer than having it inside, because the wind is going to blow the viruses away and the sunlight is going to keep things pretty sterile. Beer gardens and sitting outside of a coffee shop are reasonably safe too, but you do need to use an element of common sense.”

The study also warns that kitchens and break zones will be two of the most challenging areas for businesses once employees begin re-entering the workplace. It suggests lunch times will need to be staggered and employees should not share kitchenware to prevent cross-contamination.

This means the death of the traditional office tea round, according to Dr. Pearson. He continued: “A lot of rituals like the office tea round might die out for quite a while. What we have to do for the time being is be super hygienic in the office and much more aware of our personal hygiene. You should be thinking all the time: ‘Is someone else going to be touching this same surface?’”

Some of the other potential changes businesses could make according to Citation’s study include hygiene stations on every desk, the installation of automatic doors and introducing UV light disinfectants that will kill up to 96% of the coronavirus in 30 minutes.

Citation’s Gillian McAteer concluded: “Most employees will continue to work from home and may only come into the office to complete tasks that cannot be done remotely. In instances where staff will be required in the office, however, they should expect big changes to how their workspace looked prior to March this year.”

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