Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Welcoming back the workforce: creating a Covid-safe environment

With the lifting of Covid restrictions, including the directive to work from home when possible, offices are opening up again. Many of your workforce are likely to be looking forward to this. Working from home can be lonely and they will enjoy the camaraderie of being with colleagues. However, many will also be understandably apprehensive about returning to an office environment in an ongoing pandemic, particularly those who are vulnerable or have vulnerable household members. Putting some key safety measures into place can help reassure your workforce and also reduce the chances of an outbreak on your premises.


Good ventilation has been shown to reduce the chances of Covid transmission. This can be manual, such as through vents or open windows and doors or mechanical through fans or ducts. If you are unsure of the effectiveness of your ventilation systems, a CO2 monitor can help identify poorly ventilated areas.

Good hygiene

Good hygiene can go a long way towards reducing the risk of transmission and regular handwashing should be encouraged. This can include making sure everyone has regular access to sinks and soap or providing hand sanitiser.

Virus-containing droplets can linger on surfaces, so the office needs to be regularly cleaned too. How often this takes place will depend on the number of workers present. Areas with heavy traffic such as entrances and communal kitchens or toilets should be cleaned throughout the day, while a private workstation should be cleared at the end of each day in preparation for cleaning.

Testing and isolating

It is important to keep up to date with the current testing and isolation rules. At the time of writing, cases of the Omicron variant remain high and there is high demand for NHS tests. In England at present, isolating is required following a positive LFD test without the need for a confirmatory PCR test. The exceptions to this are those identified as high risk, participating in research programs or eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment.

Workplace testing is recommended to quickly identify Covid cases, reducing the chance of a serious outbreak. A good option for offices is to use a third-party provider of tests to ensure a reliable supply, even during times of high demand, to provide your employees with access to accurate PCR tests with quick results. Matrix Diagnostics is one company on the government’s list of general population Covid-19 testing providers that can supply a Covid-19 PCR test with 99% accuracy and a 2-day turnaround to allow your employees to quickly discover if they have contracted the virus.

Keep a work-from-home option

From the start, Covid-19 has been an unpredictable virus. While, for some, it can be serious or even fatal, for others, it is mild or asymptomatic. For those who do not feel particularly unwell, having days off sick can be frustrating. Many of your employees may also have children who contract the virus and require a parent at home to care for them, while those who are vulnerable can be nervous about coming to work if there have been a number of cases. Allowing them to work from home on a temporary basis can help maintain high levels of productivity and boost staff morale.

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