Following a two-month period of government-imposed lockdown, it seems we are gradually moving towards a new normal as certain measures are being relaxed for the reopening of the economy.
As part of the deconfinement, stores that closed up shop half-way through March have started opening their doors again, whilst large-scale attractions which are able to guarantee physical distancing, such as museums and zoos, will soon be able to welcome visitors.
Crucially for some businesses, the permittance to return to work is also included in this reduction of government restrictions. Offices will start to come back to life as workers resettle at their desks in waves, which were fleetingly abandoned in favour of working from home to ‘flatten the curve’. But unlike the rush to clear these buildings, the phase of re-entering will require thoughtfulness.
In parallel with this move back to work, the health and safety of employees has shifted to the foreground and has become a key concern for employers globally, as they tentatively approach the lifting of these restrictions.
Commercial real estate service giant CBRE reinstated this, saying that the re-opening of workspaces is particularly challenging as society is dealing with an evolving global public health situation. This has resulted in the demand for new types of expertise, collaboration and communication — and perhaps most significantly, a necessary shift in management and workplace culture.
Most experts agree on the fact that workspace and office space will not only continue to be relevant, but even see an increase in demand and in many cases transform into satellite offices.
We will enter an age where the traditional structures of workspaces will be innovatively re-evaluated to safeguard and ensure the physical, and mental, health of its occupants, for example by extending the existing office space. This is one certainty of the ‘new normal’ everyone seems to agree on: the workspaces we will return to will be very different from the ones we left.
These last few weeks, we have been extensively researching what steps to take and how to implement these measures within our own spaces in a bid to play a leading role within this 'future of workspaces' movement.
We are very excited to start welcoming our Heroes back to our corpo-working spaces, but of course we want to ensure this can be done whilst guaranteeing their health and safety.
The changes in our spaces are in line with several suggestions made by the government as well as by health experts for major commercial real estate services. Similarly to the re-occupation of offices strategy set up by global real estate consultants Knight Frank, we identified two categories of change to implement within our workspaces: on a behavioural and environmental level.
On the one hand, in order to guarantee the safe return to our workspaces, we implemented measures to stimulate behavioural changes, clearly outlining protocols and reconfiguring open work environments to ensure physical distancing, such as installing plexiglass between desks and placing.
These also include adding clear displays of updated safety, health and wellness information and resources for employees, visitors and occupants throughout the building or office.
On the other hand, the environmental changes we made include temperature control and increasing and toughening our cleaning regimes.
In general, we increased our levels of service, materials and activities by implementing enhanced cleaning; introducing new access protocols (e.g., temperature screening at the entrance), and making hand sanitisers, wipes, gloves, and masks widely available.
Below, you can discover a list of the most important measures we implemented to ‘create a safe zone’ in order to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all our Heroes and occupants of our workspaces:
- - Temperature control at the entrance of the workspaces
- - Digital totems with prevention measures, Covid-19 news and the names of - the companies on each floor
- - Plexi glass to reinforce the workspace safe zones in the coworking zones and communal spaces such as coffee corners
- - Floor markings for steering traffic and securing a 1.5 m distance
- - Automated dispensers with disinfectant gel at the entrance of the workspace
- - Climate control modifications (higher humidity)
- - Disposable placemats to use on a daily basis for your workstation
- - Masks, gel, gloves and vitamins are available for purchase at the reception desk, depending on conditions of delivery
Interested to see how the changes look in our locations in Brussels, Zaventem, Grimbergen, Turnhout and Wommelgem? Watch our video, which details exactly how we implemented them!
We understand coming out of confinement alone is a scary prospect, and that returning to public spaces such as our corpo-working offices can be even more daunting. According to expert advice, including tips from CBRE, clear communication is more critical now than ever before to ensure people feel confident returning to work.
This is why we have contacted all our partners and asked them to inform us on what measures they have implemented so far. We established an in-house certificate that will be allocated to locations who have complied with the necessary measures, helping you to understand whether a location is compliant with the regulations assessed by the Belgian Government.
A certified location fulfills the following health safety requirements:
- - Implementations to secure the 1.5m distance rule
- - Floor markings (arrows, dots)
- - Informative displays about the latest measures
- - A sound and conscious business approach of the partner in terms of health safety
- - Disinfectant gel dispensers at every entrance
- - Masks
These measures will be clearly indicated on each location page alongside the house rules, and will be clearly referenced to on the map of or location, as seen below, along the lines of our clear communication and transparency strategy.
CBRE’s advicefurther states that giving ongoing updates and completing continuous reviews of the safety of workspaces and adopting new ideas to demonstrate ongoing commitment will be critical.
Within this framework, we will continue to engage with our partners and Heroes on how to improve our existing health and safety measures. We designed a community 'health safety' group to discover our partners’ own, additional "Covid-19 updates" and to reach out to our Heroes up-to-date on the latest Covid-19 developments and measures taken in our spaces.
In addition, our Heroes can use this platform to tell us about their experiences, thoughts or give us general feedback regarding the changes made at our locations, so we can continue to improve on the measures we are taking to make them feel comfortable at work.
To guarantee a safe return to the workplace for their employees, many businesses will have to conduct a review of the requirements necessary to do so, which may include the introduction of a spectrum of physical and virtual solutions as stated above.
In turn, businesses will have to review the portfolio implications this will have, and to assess and optimise the anticipated changes to workplace and workspace strategy in post-covid times based on business needs and the company’s current office space.
As PWC pointed out in their insights on returning to the office, this could require simple changes being made, such as changing employee schedules to reduce the number of people in buildings at one time.
However, this global experiment has shown that homes are far from being the ideal replacements for office buildings, as they often are more distracting and less professional environments. By joining Workero, businesses can offer their employees a professional and safe alternative to avoid overcrowding the office.
Implementing the booking system of Workero ensures that companies can retain absolute control on the volume of people in the officeand at the same time offers a flexibility of work for those who cannot be at the office but still require a professional and comfortable office space to work in.
PWC further highlights that, in the long run, this will in some cases require a change to the layout of the workspace, from moving desk further apart, to installing plexiglass separators and other measures. At a time when most companies are cutting costs or struggling financially, they may not be able to afford such CAPEX investments.
By allowing employees to (temporarily) work within our office spaces which have already implemented the necessary measures, companies can guarantee employees a safe and professional workspace as an alternative for their own office, without having to fund implementing changes within company walls.