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A swift and safe return to the office by Bren Standell

…… Commercial Director of Parcel Locker Solutions UK & Ireland at Quadient 

The lifting of restrictions has inevitably had a huge impact on the behaviour and attitude of the nation. As the Government’s post-lockdown roadmap remains on track, many are concerned about adjusting to life once again, and whether it will be completely safe to do so. That is why it is now essential for organisations across the UK to assess the best health and safety practices, as office and business doors begin to reopen. To ensure employees are supported throughout yet another colossal transition, with their physical and mental health safeguarded, there are some key considerations for employers to consider. 

Adapting once more 

There is no doubt that working from home has been a critical factor in keeping businesses alive. Although technology has kept employees connected and able to complete most tasks, many have had to completely step out of their comfort zone. Love it or hate it, remote working has completely transformed expectations around work. Despite uncertainties around this unfamiliar agile way of working, many companies have reported that productivity remained stable, or in some cases, increased during the pandemic. In fact, research by Wharton1 has found that 83 percent of employees were either more productive or equally as productive when working from home. 

With it being more than a year since work from home measures were implemented, organisations have needed to harness a more flexible approach to work which meets employees changing expectations. Recent research conducted by office furniture firm, MEAVO2, suggests many employees would prefer to replace the traditional 9 to 5 office day with flexible working hours and the option to work from home. Research from HR software company, Personio3, has found over one third of employees would leave their current employer for more flexibility and the chance to work from home. So, what does this mean for businesses wanting to introduce a return to the office? It is paramount for employers to check in with members of staff, and work with them to offer the option they feel most comfortable with. 

Health and safety is key 

One of the first topics employers should address is whether staff members feel safe in returning. Therefore, they should ensure the correct health and safety measures are in place before any logistics are arranged. By closely liaising with those responsible for implementing these measures, employers can guarantee all of the necessary requirements are met ahead of time. Once this has been completed, organisations need to make sure they regularly and clearly communicate with staff, which in turn, will reinforce their health and wellbeing as a priority. Some of the measure’s which can be implemented, include:

Sanitising stations – Anti-bacterial items, such as gel, wipes, disposable masks and cleaning products, should be positioned at entrances and at intervals around the office to encourage regular sanitation of hands and equipment

One-way systems – Clear signage should be in place throughout the building to provide direction to the flow of traffic around the office and reduce person-to-person contact or crowding in corridors and common areas

Dedicated workstations – To reduce contact between people and cross-contamination of equipment, businesses will need to opt for dedicated workstations and additional measures such as plastic separation screens 

Fresh air supply – Workplaces should maximise ventilation to boost employee focus and energy, while also reducing the risk of viral transmission. Employees should take breaks outside of the office, and organisations can help facilitate this by providing sheltered seating areas, or green open spaces. Indoor plants within an office can also improve health, wellbeing and productivity. 

The power of parcel locker solutions 

As working from home is now a familiar concept for a huge amount of people, there may be some concern around physical interactions with other individuals or objects in the workplace. For example, there is a high number of items handled throughout an office, such as paperwork, equipment and mail. To eliminate the risks of person-to-person contact during the handover of these goods, businesses can install solutions that enable them to manage parcel deliveries with no physical contact required, such as intelligent parcel lockers. 

Parcel lockers can be used by organisations within all industries and, ultimately, streamline the handling processes for both incoming and outgoing items within an office. Instead of a staff member having to manually collect each delivery, and enhance the risk of catching anything contagious, they can now be delivered to a secure locker hub. If employees can securely store items in lockers until they are ready to collect, they may feel more comfortable in returning to the workplace. 

Mental health at the forefront 

According to a study by Perkbox4 from last year, 79 percent of working adults throughout the UK commonly experience work- related stress. This is a huge concern for employers and should be considered a priority, whether or not employees return to the workplace. Additional research from the Mental Health Foundation5 has found the pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture is one of the biggest challenges to the mental health of the general population. To put it into perspective, more than 11 million days6 are lost because of stress at work yearly. To support the wellbeing of employees, organisations should promote a ‘work smart, not long’ culture, which actively encourages staff member to take time for themselves, and balance work and life in a safe way. 

Whether it is through sanitary measures, contact free automated parcel lockers, or more focus around mental health, businesses will need to follow a roadmap to ensure employees feel best supported. The past year has been an incredibly challenging year for almost everyone and, as we look to 2021 and beyond, it will be interesting to see how employees will adapt to another ‘new normal’ within an office environment, and how employers will proceed to facilitate this.

www.quadient.com 

  1. http://d1c25a6gwz7q5e.cloudfront.net/ reports/2020-11-09-workplace-whitepaper- FINAL.pdf
  2. https://meavo.com/post/back-to-the- watercooler-survey/
  3. https://www.personio.com/hr-lexicon/remote- work/
  4. https://www.perkbox.com/uk/resources/ library/2020-workplace-stress-survey
  5. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/w/ work-life-balance
  6. https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/
2018