How to relaunch your workspace safely and effectively- insights and best practices

As restrictions around COVID-19 continue to ease, soon people will be heading back into office spaces. Because of this, we are sure many of you have started to think about how to reopen your workplace. While re-launching your office space can involve a lot of uncertainty and difficult aspects to manage, EatFirst wants to make it easy and as seamless as possible. We have collated the list of key aspects to consider when you restart your workplace, to ensure it is effectively and safely.

1. Rota staff back to work

In this new world, you may have to ease people back into the workplace. This will allow maintaining a safe distance in the workplace, reduce their exposure to public transport in the early stages, as well as mitigate the consequences if someone does become unwell. The key factors to consider here are:

a) Whether you rotate them by the team (e.g. marketing and HR are in the office today, but sales and finance are tomorrow)- or half of each team.

b) What is the frequency of rotation- daily, 2 by 2, week by week? The answer depends on what type of working interaction is critical for your company (for example, are there complex cross-functional projects running at the moment, or is it more important to deliver on team-specific goals?) You may want to also involve your staff in this decision-making process, for example, run a quick survey to identify people's preferences.

sanitiser on entry

2. Implement Staff Movement & Safety Processes

With everyone in England now eligible for free rapid COVID-19 tests, twice a week, you can easily encourage your staff to order tests to their home address. This gives everyone the peace of mind of a COVID-free work environment. Ensure your team follow all government advice, with the accuracy of the specific tests taken into account.

Make it clear staff should stay home and work remotely if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • A high fever
  • Abdominal pains
  • Severe muscle aches and pains
  • A cough
  • Runny nose and nasal congestion
  • Ongoing fatigue

Allow staff to self-declare they do not have these symptoms and feel well enough to enter the workplace. If you don't want to take any chances, you may want to consider even implementing rapid tests for your workplace.

3. Manage personal hygiene

This is easily one of the most important steps in your new back to work routine for staff. Set specific guidelines for staff to follow and to ensure they understand on which grounds they can enter the office.

Encourage masks, have hand sanitiser placed around the office, and on each desk, as well as wet wipes and cleaning products in the bathrooms and kitchen. The important step here is educating your staff and role-modelling the behaviour you are requesting. This includes from the leaders of the company, to convey how serious these requirements are and demonstrate that everyone is expected to comply.

4. What to do if someone gets sick

Don't panic! You need to have a clear action plan in place in case that does happen. If someone does fall ill, ask them to work from home for a week or two, to heal and to stop spreading to others. Clean their desk with sanitising products and monitor the people who sat close by them or interacted with them the most. Encourage the person who has fallen ill to seek medical advice and get a doctors certificate of clearance before returning to the office space.

An important part of this process is to ensure people are comfortable enough to disclose whether they are feeling unwell, and allow them the space and time to get better again while working from home.

Example measures to take if someone gets sick:

  • Ask the person who fell sick to work from home, as well as the people who has a close interaction with that person e.g. were located in the same section of the office or office floor
  • If there is a suspicion that the person who got sick may have contracted COVID-19, conduct a full deep clean and sanitisation of the office before allowing people back in
  • Ask them to seek medical advice and get a doctors clearance certificate before returning to work
  • Monitor the health of those who sat near them or interacted with them at work

5. Adjust workspace configuration

While no doubt everyone will be excited to be back to work, the health of your staff is still the priority, and thus at first, you may want to implement a few measures to minimise health risks, at least in the initial stages. Consider these practical steps:

Dividing the office into sections

This can be done on different floors, or you may want to subdivide a large area in several sections. The factor to consider here is the availability of common areas like toilets and kitchens (e.g. if you have kitchen and bathroom both on the left and right of the stairs or lift, consider making a mini "self-contained office" on each side, and limit people moving between the two.

Configure the desks

You would need to consider how close the desks are to each other, and whether you can maintain a safe distance between employees. Naturally, if you are implementing rostering as advised in #1 above, this task will be easier. But, you will still need to ensure that employees that are in the office don't crowd in a particular spot. A good idea here is to physically change the layout of the office and space out the desks if you can.

Social distancing markers

You may also want to put markers on the floor denoting a safe distance in the common areas, like in the lounge room and the printer area - to avoid people crowding back to back with each other.

6. Change your office kitchen management

The office kitchen is not going to function in the same way post-COVID. All eyes are going to be on how sanitary it is, how you can limit contact, and also disinfect and sanitise the area.

Luckily there are a few easy and useful things you can adjust in your office kitchen to make this easy:

  • Snack dispensers: instead of people digging their hands into cookie jars, twist snack dispensers allow to turn a tap, put their bowl underneath and get their portion of snacks poured straight in. Ensure that there are wet-wipes next to it to wipe before and after each use.
  • Coffee machines: the same applies to coffee machines. Make sure people wipe the buttons before use, and ensure there is no back to back queuing for coffee- you may way to put "safe distance" markers on the floor.
  • Cleaning frequency and supplies: one thing you'll need to ensure when you come back to work, is that you are stocked with kitchen cleaning supplies. you would want to review the frequency of your cleaning and ensure a thorough clean and disinfection is done as often as possible, best if it is at the end of each day or shift.
  • Sanitiser and hand wash: you will want ample supply of this stuff. Even if restrictions are eased, good hygiene is important all year round.
  • Single-use items: for office guests, or the comfort of your staff, it would be wise to have single-use items on hand so people don't need to worry about cleanliness and you can ensure less contact between people.
  • Re-think food in the office: it is not the right time to have big buffet lunches in the office. You would be safer with individually packaged lunches. This can still offer some delicious meals with heaps of variety.
social distancing

7. Rethink food for the office

Say no to buffets (at least for now)

Now is not the time for a big buffet in the office. As an alternative, consider safe, individually packaged lunches and meals. This option can still be yummy with awesome variety.

Rethink the lunch break

The lunch break in the office can be safer than employees venturing out to the crowded food courts, especially if you stick to the safe individually-packaged meals. However, you'd need to consider staggering those breaks to avoid over-crowding.

Review what's in your office pantry

Review your fruit and snack supplies- you may want to choose specially packaged fruit boxes, as well as individually wrapped snacks (and/or use safe snack dispensers as recommended above).

Coffee Supply Changes

If you decide to lock down your coffee machine, for the time being, you might want to stock your cupboards with coffee sachets and tea bags to ensure employees are still enjoying their morning caffeine hit (or afternoon pick me up).

We have your back

EatFirst's new technology solution for recurring office lunches, allowing individual choice and easy lunch selection. Watch our short video to see how it works. If you're interested in implementing in your office, request a call back to discuss with our team.

With the transition back to the office, there will be a natural shift in productivity with the change in environment. Offering lunch to your team has a positive impact on productivity. Based on our client's feedback when offering lunch to their team, these are the top 3 benefits:

  • Office attendance is close to 100% on days when lunch is provided
  • Office lunches boost team morale
  • Staff lunches improve connectivity & collaboration
EatFirst's Oh My Lunch Tool - offering individually packaged COVID-safe meals delivered to your office

Welcome staff back

Coming back to the office will be filled with mixed emotions for many; as staff are unsure of what to expect, what their workdays will look like now and how to cope in this new environment. Something we suggest would be to provide a "welcome back to work" pack, filled with individual snacks, bottled water, sanitiser, coffee sachets and some notes on what has changed in the space. This could include new guidelines around break times, socialising and how they can keep up their hygiene while at work. Not only is this a great way to ensure your team has everything on hand they need to feel comfortable back at work, it's a nice gesture to help them feel back at home in your office space.

8. Find new ways of socialising and team bonding

Team bonding is not going to look the same for some time for 2 reasons. First, is, of course, social distancing in the workplace, and second- you may get used to a significant part of your team working from home following your roster.

But there are ways around this. Individually packed meals, single-serve cutlery, and even home delivery options mean nobody in your team has to miss out on a meal or bonding event. You can either rotate your events for the part of the team that is in the office or hold events which get delivered to both your office and your team's homes.

Examples can include Friday night drinks, pub quizzes, trivia and more! Now more than ever it is important your team feels connected, even if everyone isn't in the office at one time. So be creative with opportunities you put in place for them to connect.

9. Help staff feel back at home

Everything may feel a bit more clinical and cold for the time being, but this doesn't mean you can't still show your staff you care. If anything, this is more important now than ever.

One thing we suggest is to surprise your staff with a "welcome back pack". with everything, they need to tackle this new office space and a personalised note welcoming them back.

Welcome back pack can include:

  • Individually wrapped yummy snacks
  • A bottle of water, kombucha or soft drinks
  • Some coffee sachets & tea
  • A personalised note welcoming someone back
  • Instructions & guidelines on how to operate within the space
  • A mini hand sanitiser for on the go and their commute

10. Maintain your office culture

Keeping your office culture is alive is important throughout these times, and while you are settling back into the office. Not only will this help everyone feel comfortable again, but it will do wonders for your employee's mental health.

Tips on maintaining office culture:

  • Celebrate all your wins: and make it known! Ensure you keep the positivity up by bringing attention to all wins as a company and even for individuals.
  • Transparency is key!: Keep up the communication, even while you enter back into the office.
  • Keep up the fun: Whether you use someone of our tips from page #9, or you come up with your own ideas for team bonding, don't forget to have fun.

If you'd like any help in contact us at where our friendly team will be happy to help! If you have any further tips on how you safely transitioned your company back to the office, we'd love to hear.

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