Businesses across the country are reopening their offices to workers craving a structured but flexible environment and social interaction. Here’s how they’ve done it:
Office spaces have been transformed so employees can have a safer way of working, with one-way layouts, distancing and tracking systems to stop the spread of the virus.
Though this is the future of work, the familiarity of ‘oﬃce life’ is all part of the draw.
For some, it’s not just the routines we’ve missed, such as lunch in the city centre or the gym before meetings, but the people: like chatting to a colleague over the desk or being able to ask a question in person.
Whether you pop in a few times a week or decide to go back full-time, striking the right balance between home and oﬃce could be the key to a more productive work life.
FLEXIBLE OFFICE LIFE CREATES BALANCE FOR WORKING FAMILIES
For many families across the country, working from home presented the unique challenge of balancing a full-time job with childcare or homeschooling.
That’s why companies such as SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com have taken the time to listen to employees’ personal situations as they ease more than 50 staﬀ back into the working environment with ﬂexible working hours and staﬀ rotations.
Martyn Abbott, head of online for SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com, is happy to esacpe the distractions of home and be able to concentrate on work when he comes into the office
‘During lockdown, I was juggling work with caring for our three-year-old, while my wife works part-time for the NHS,’ says head of online Martyn Abbott.
‘When we reopened, our oﬃce hours were so ﬂexible that I could beneﬁt from a distraction-free space whenever it suited our family.’
When SaveMoneyCutCarbon. com – a fast-growing business helping organisations reduce their energy, water and carbon consumption – wanted to reopen its Suﬀolk oﬃce, they started with a risk assessment of the 10,000 square foot building.
A number of changes were made, including installing high-quality, no-touch foaming hand-sanitiser dispensers across the building, and replacing light switches with sensor-activated technology.
Flexible approach: Mark Sait, CEO of SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com says he missed the social side of the office, but is happy to trust his team to work from home if that works better for them
A new digital track-and-trace system now checks the temperatures of staﬀ and visitors. As for layout, a spacious, well-ventilated working hub called the Sky Garden has been set up for individual working or safely distanced collaboration.
‘I was surprised how much I missed the social side of an oﬃce,’ says Martyn. ‘Especially team meetings and face-to-face chats. Even though I’ve gradually increased my oﬃce hours, I trust my team to work from home if that’s better for them.’
CEO Mark Sait adds: ‘It’s not one size ﬁts all: some people have been scared about coming back, while others are relaxed.
‘For us, it’s been a combination of listening, adapting our practices and spending the money on technology to support how they want to work. Our ﬂexible approach is here to stay.’
‘I missed the social side of an office, especially team meetings and face-to- face chats, but I trust my team to work from home if that’s better for them’
CREATIVE TEAMS NEED FACE-TO-FACE COLLABORATION TIME
FOR creative teams that thrive on big ideas, the transition to remote- communication tools such as Slack and Zoom has sometimes been a challenge.
But now that collaborative workforces such as the Evergreen Agency are back in the same room, the ideas can really start to ﬂow, says senior SEO strategist Naomi Francis-Parker.
‘Everyone seems happier since being back in the oﬃce – even for just a few days a week,’ she says. ‘I’ve seen a huge improvement in motivation and energy.
‘For me, working from home meant fewer distractions, but having that collaboration again with my colleagues across desks boosts our creative process.’
Naomi Francis-Parker, senior SEO strategist at the Evergreen Agency, says she had nerves at first about heading back to the office but is happier and more motivated now she’s back
Naomi now commutes to the SEO agency at a business park in Stratton Audley, Oxfordshire, three times a week, co-ordinating days with her team.
A rota system limits oﬃce users to ﬁve at a time, with desks newly arranged for two-metre distancing and sanitising wipes at every station. Staﬀ are also provided with face coverings to use at their discretion.
Even though communal tea rounds are a thing of the past, Naomi says the familiar routines of workplace life have helped everyone settle back in.
She says: ‘At the oﬃce, I’m grateful for clear markers to take a break, such as seeing people leave their desks to make lunch or walk into town for a Pret a Manger. I even missed my drive for extra head space.’
Although she had nerves at ﬁrst, Naomi says Covid-secure systems improved her conﬁdence about going back. ‘When your employer establishes set rules,
it feels OK to go into the oﬃce. For my mental wellbeing, it’s nice to be out of the house, and physically I get more done.’
■ This is UK Government information for readers in England only. Check with your local authority for guidance on workplaces reopening in your area.