The government has announced further lifting of the restrictions, particularly around the size of the groups that are allowed to meet together. With outdoor trading spaces (such as car showrooms and markets) and non-essential retailers now open too, we are expecting to hear from some clients that they are considering going back to working in the office, at least partially. TfL has now increased the number of people allowed on buses, and front-door loading, they are clearly expecting more usage.
It cannot be a return to exactly the same way of working, so here are our suggestions on how your IT can help you if you are thinking about going back to the office.
How many people?
The average worker in London is allocated around 100 sq ft. But that includes their desk, space for movement at their desk and a proportion of the communal space. This means they are very close to the social distancing limits when at their desk. The people in the image are clearly not socially distanced, so how can you ensure your team are?
If you cannot increase the gaps between desks, here are a few suggestions on how to limit the risks:
- Have all desks face the same direction, so people don’t sit face to face.
- Add Perspex screens between desks if needed. Government guidance on this can be found here.
- Only allow people to sit at every other desk. On average, companies only have 70% of their desks being used at once. Reducing that to 50% only means a few more people working remotely.
Technology to help you manage social distancing in your office
We are all fortunate that there is a wide range of technologies that can help you manage social distancing in your office. Here’s just a few…
If you have to re-arrange your desks, there is likely to be an impact on your IT infrastructure. Cabling is laid out according to the desk plan, often with cabling laid under the floor. Moving all the desks throws that into confusion. Adding a secure WiFi network to the office, with repeaters if necessary, means that problem goes away. Spreading desks to meet social distancing would no longer be a problem. Any future office layout changes, as restrictions are lifted, can be done quickly and easily. Ensure you have sufficient signal boosters to provide even coverage across your office and provide a separate network for any guests that will be coming into the office (not yet of course!)
If you aren’t able to increase the gaps between desks, perhaps you are going to limit the number of desks that can be used. Whilst we’re not advocating a first-come, first served approach, some access control systems can count the number of people in the office and then limit access when that limit is reached. You will need an Exit Reader on the system, so you may want to talk to your security provider about this. If they cannot help, have a chat with DS Security.
If your concern is whether people are symptomatic when they come into the office, or aren’t taking the necessary precautions, today’s security cameras could help. Thermal cameras can measure an individual’s temperature and many security cameras can recognise whether people are, for example, wearing masks.
If you aren’t using Office 365 yet, you’ve missed out on a huge productivity gain for remote workers. Using this means it doesn’t matter whether someone is in the office or working remotely. Whether you have a rota or simply leave it for people to choose, they can still work effectively and productively.
More and more companies are rolling out solutions that will tell you which desks in the office are being used and which are available. They can even be set so that the desk space remains unavailable, even after its been vacated. It goes back to being available after it has been cleaned.
If you are thinking of going back into the office, these technologies may be of use to you. One quick warning before we go: Inform your teams of any new technology solutions you apply, and the reasons behind them. You don’t want them believing that this is tech for tech’s sake and that the office is constantly under surveillance.
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