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Covid safety- staff at home or in the office

How to make office working work

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We are a small practice - 6 of us in total. We tried home working but it is not very effective and things take longer which is not what we need coming into tax return season. I worked on my own in the office for 2 months April/May and it as awful. We have remote access at home to the office server but we are a rural area and internet is slow. Staff were also working on small laptops on kitchen tables which is not ideal. We also find we need printers/copiers too much. All desks are 2 metres apart, windows open (yes it gets cold), we make sure we never get closer than 1m, don't share desk unless they have been cleaned first and don't let clients in.  The office has a 50m2 floor area and high ceilings. Some staff however still do not feel safe but also are not keen to home work. Working shifts one week on, one off has been suggested -some are for and some against. How have other small offices overcome these issues without empyting their bank accounts (air santisers cost £3k for example). Constructive comments not critisism please -everyone has different views at the moment.

 

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By philrob
30th Nov 2020 20:57

You might have two problems - reduced productivity working from home (due to attitude, equipment or lack of accountability) and reluctance to return to the office because of _perceived_ risk.

Looking at practical matters first, using the risk assessment template from the government website may be helpful in evaluating the risks in your office (you have to do this assessment anyway under the H&S at work act.). It is well worth getting your draft assessment reviewed/contributed to by staff. How often door handles are wiped, with what and by whom for example is best built with consensus.

We have a small team in the office with distanced desks. We lost one member of staff for 10 days when they got Covid from their Son. It didn't jump to infect anyone else (so our controls worked). We wear masks whenever we interact with anyone outside the office but not at our desks. We do wedge all the doors open first thing in the morning (less door handles to wipe). The size of the office and natural ventilation from doors etc. means we don't need to work with open windows all of the time.

Other businesses that I work with (as Non-Exec Director) have less space than my primary business and have used perspex screens (cost circa £80 per desk) - they haven't had any Covid issues but have discussed risks extensively amongst the team which resulted in full buy-in to the controls. At the moment they are working about 50% from office and 50% from home - they are highly pro-active in 'checking in' with one another throughout the day.

A hybrid approach of half the team in one week and half in the next works well from a business continuity point of view - if one person shows symptoms the other team can carry on - it can be done on a daily basis too - our warehouse split shifts with a 10 minute 'gap' between them. Cleaning is done by the incoming shift - that way they know it has been done properly.

Looking at the accountability side. Organisations as a whole need to interact - communicating goals, long-term vision, short-term priorities, progress made etc. is vital - often this falls away during remote working when the owner isn't able to 'live the values' just by being present.

The other challenge you are facing is that everyone works differently - some people need/welcome interaction and work best in the office (or where the Boss can give nudges if needed) others work best in solitude. Everyone needs a mix of 'focus time' and 'water cooler chat' time - the individual optimum differs.

Working remotely or in the office (or both) having a daily check in & weekly review should help to improve focus and provide an opportunity for people to discuss client observations or anything that they aren't sure of. Patrick Lencioni has a good book on meeting types - 'death by meetings', but similar ideas are in Verne Harnish's Rockefeller Habits, and in Gene Wickman's EOS (www.eosworldwide.com). If you only have time for one book - go for the Rockefeller Habits.

Hope this, rather rambling, response helps your thinking.

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Replying to philrob:
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By lionofludesch
01st Dec 2020 07:53

Rambling? I'd call it comprehensive.

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By Calculatorboy
30th Nov 2020 21:12

its no risk , this virus has something like a 99.94% survival rate ,if you're over 82 maybe take a little care , the rest carry on as normal, you will die eventually, but not for a while

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Replying to Calculatorboy:
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By lionofludesch
01st Dec 2020 11:24

Calculatorboy wrote:

its no risk , this virus has something like a 99.94% survival rate ,if you're over 82 maybe take a little care , the rest carry on as normal, you will die eventually, but not for a while

Happen - but, on the other hand, it's not a lot of fun and quarantining your entire household is a serious inconvenience, even if it is only for a couple of weeks.

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By OldParkAcct
01st Dec 2020 10:28

I think the staff not feeling safe in more to do with the media/government agenda to scare people into compliance, I suspect nothing that you did would satisfy some of the employees . But employers seem to be forgetting that its up to them to decide what are safe working conditions, not the individual employees.
Probably the most practical solution is to have them working different hours (assuming your contracts permit this), with some in early morning and others working afternoon/evening. As soon as one of my clients suggested this as a solution his employees suddenly decided they were all fine with returning to the office and working their normal hours.

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Replying to OldParkAcct:
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By lionofludesch
01st Dec 2020 10:40

OldParkAcct wrote:

I think the staff not feeling safe in more to do with the media/government agenda to scare people into compliance, I suspect nothing that you did would satisfy some of the employees . But employers seem to be forgetting that its up to them to decide what are safe working conditions, not the individual employees.
Probably the most practical solution is to have them working different hours (assuming your contracts permit this), with some in early morning and others working afternoon/evening. As soon as one of my clients suggested this as a solution his employees suddenly decided they were all fine with returning to the office and working their normal hours.

Great idea ! 6-2 days, 2-10 afters, 10-6 nights.

Just like the pit.

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Replying to lionofludesch:
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By OldParkAcct
01st Dec 2020 11:17

and much of retail, hospitality, manufacturing, NHS, etc.... in fact most workplaces that are not office based.

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Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
01st Dec 2020 11:31

The rules to follow are not hard and I think a few staff are making a meal out of things.

I would do as suggested you have set the office in a safe way, if people are reluctant to come in for safety reasons and your office is Covid safe, that presents a different problem.

You need to either accept it and tell them they can work from home but put an action plan and some pressure on them to deliver what you expect or tell them to come back to work. Does you local authority not have a Covid inspector get them to give your office a once over if your staff don't accept your view on it.

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Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
01st Dec 2020 11:31

The rules to follow are not hard and I think a few staff are making a meal out of things.

I would do as suggested you have set the office in a safe way, if people are reluctant to come in for safety reasons and your office is Covid safe, that presents a different problem.

You need to either accept it and tell them they can work from home but put an action plan and some pressure on them to deliver what you expect or tell them to come back to work. Does you local authority not have a Covid inspector get them to give your office a once over if your staff don't accept your view on it.

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