While there’s no doubt that the human cost of Covid-19 has been immense, this may ultimately pale when compared to the long-term socio-economic impact of the pandemic.
The current situation may even get worse before it gets better, of course, with a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimated that nearly one-in-seven UK citizens may be unemployed by the end of 2020 if the country was to experience a second wave of infections.
This highlights the challenges facing the government in the UK (and indeed, across the globe), as while the recent reopening of shops and workplaces may have been necessary to help minimise the socio-economic cost of coronavirus, this actively increases the risk of infection nationwide.
From the perspective of offices and workplaces across the UK, the primary question that remains is what constitutes a safe and effective office space in the current climate? We’ll attempt to answer this in the post below.
Understanding Office Occupancy and How it May Change Post-Covid
If we focus on the example of a typical office, we often think of these entities as busy and densely populated spaces.
The reason for this is simple; as employers often look to optimise their office occupancy rate as a way of making the most of the space at their disposal.
But what exactly is office occupancy? For those of you who don’t know, this term is used to describe the precise number of people in your office at a given time, and you can estimate your occupancy ratio in real-time by dividing the space currently in use by the total amount of space available.
Instead of looking to optimise their office occupancy levels in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, however, companies are now striving to increase the amount of space available to each individual employee.
This is central to maintaining the existing social distancing guidelines of 1.5 metres, while also enabling employees to collaborate safely and effectively while in the office.
This has become more important than ever in recent weeks, as a growing number of people continue to return to their workplace and augment the key staff members who have remained on-site throughout the pandemic.
Of course, one of the central ways to achieve this is by ensuring that as many employees as possible continue to work from home in the near-term, by investing in a remote working infrastructure and the technology that can help to achieve this objective without compromising on productivity.
This includes the widespread use of remote communication and organisational apps such as Microsoft Teams, while many firms are also rolling out two or multi-factor authentication as a way of ensuring that employees can connect with the workplace systems securely.
Such measures, when combined with the use of clear on-site floor markings and one-way systems that prevent colleagues from congregating in communal areas, can help to ensure that workplaces are as safe as possible in the current climate.
How Can Firms Maintain a Safe Working Environment That’s also Productive?
While safety may be paramount and the key driver of office layouts in the near-term, however, businesses are still required to make the most of the space at their disposal.
This is pivotal if companies are to optimise value and achieve a return on their commercial property investment (especially in expensive areas such as London), and it’s arguably more important than ever at a time when firms are recording significant financial losses in the UK.
Optimising the space at their disposal also enables firms to increase the productivity of their on-site employees, whether they’re working independently or as part of a team.
The most effective way to achieve this is to conduct an office space utilisation survey, which can help you to understand precisely how your available space is being used and its core purposes.
It can also offer an insight into who uses the space on a regular basis, and in this respect, it enables you to establish clear priorities and implement necessary changes going forward.
This is built on the principle that only a fraction of your employees are ever at the office any given time, and this trend will become more pronounced at a time when so many colleagues continue to work from home.
Once such priorities have been determined and key space utilisation has been determined, you’ll need to ensure that social distancing measures are implemented and controlled successfully.
Fortunately, there’s technology that can be deployed to help in this respect. For example, the hardware solution ‘Iotspot ESD’ was launched towards the end of March, and this allows office managers to visualise their available office space in real-time.
This can help businesses to implement stringent controls, by allocating available workspaces according to advanced bookings by employees. This way, you need never exceed your newly determined occupancy levels, and the employees that do need to work on-site can operate in complete safety.
This will require an investment of both time and money, of course, but it’s crucial if offices are to open successfully and without incurring the risk of another peak in infections.