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Re-imagine Your Workplace – With a Focus on Health and Safety

Colliers REview Singapore blog -  Reimagine your workplace with a focus on health and safety

The post-pandemic workplace should be safe and functional, but most importantly – builds trust with your employees.


Companies are turning their attention to how their employees will return to the workplace after the Government has approved a 50% return to the office, subject to safe management measures.

While everyone is figuring what will be the new role of the workplace, the main concern everyone currently has is how to return to the workplace safely.

“Employers and occupiers are asking more questions about the changes they need,” observes Rick Thomas, Executive Director and Head of Occupier Services, on the shift in mindsets and behaviours of business occupiers. “They want to ensure that the post-pandemic workplace is safe, functional and most importantly, builds trust with their employees.”

Some common questions that businesses and employers are asking on returning to work include:

  • How will our recent experience with working from home impact the post-COVID workplace?

  • What hygiene and cleaning practices need to be put in place to maintain the health and safety of employees?

  • What physical changes do we need to make to our space?

  • What new behaviours do we need to encourage?

  • What are the best practices others are doing to make their workplaces safe?

  • How do we build trust with our employees and assure them that our workplaces are safe?

 

"We have seen more requests to turn conference rooms into assigned work spaces to reduce the density in clients’ workstation areas."

 

Five ways to reimagine and ready the workplace for returning employees

Through extensive research and discussions with our clients around the world, we have divided the actions that businesses and employers will need to take to have their workplaces ready for their employees’ return, into five categories.

These are our expert recommendations on some of the best practices and immediate actions to consider.

#1 Design and Space Changes

To help maintain the 1-metre social distancing recommended by the Government, some alterations will need to be made to space layouts and furniture. A sampling of changes includes:

  • Avoid people facing each other and rotate open workstation desks/work surfaces.

  • Install tall partitions between desks that face each other. An alternative is to install temporary clear plastic panel partitions to raise lower panel heights to at least 60 inches.

  • In areas with 1-metre workstations, occupy every other workstation. The use of the workstation can be rotated daily for different teams.

  • Install temporary clear plastic panel barriers at the reception desk to separate visitors from the office manager/receptionist.

  • Direct employees to work in alternative work areas like conference rooms or collaborative open spaces.

  • The use of some conference rooms can be obsolete with the convenience of virtual meetings. Turning some of those meeting rooms into assigned work spaces to reduce the density in their open workstation areas, could be a good alternative.

 

Safe distancing at the workplace tall partitions between desks
Where possible, rotate open workstations and install panel partitions between desks that face each other

More companies have also embraced - and even mastered - the art of virtual meetings. “We have seen more requests to turn conference rooms into assigned work spaces to reduce the density in clients’ workstation areas,” shares Ong Chee Beng, Associate Director, Project Management.

All this means is that as a business, you will need to re-evaluate your needs – understanding your employees’ desires and work from home (WFH) capabilities upfront will give insight to your future needs, and how you can re-stack your current space.

Engaging with a Project Management expert to execute a well-thought-through office re-stack plan can make a difference between success or failure as you re-imagine your workplace. Alignment on time, budget and communication management is crucial.

 

“Understanding your employees’ desires and WFH capabilities upfront will give insight to your future needs, and how you can restack your current space.”

 

#2 Technology

  • Leverage technology to continue with remote work. This will reduce density to help maintain distancing requirements of the office and enable staggered occupancy of the workplace during different days of the week.

    Findings from Colliers’ Global Working from Home survey, launched in March, shows that 80% of employees would like to continue working from home at least one day a week.

  • Use screens to broadcast new workplace hygiene rules.

  • Install touchless door openers at critical locations.

  • In bathrooms, install touchless, motion-activated faucets, soap dispensers, flushing and paper towel dispensers (or air hand dryers).

 

#3 New Behaviours

  • Educate and enable office managers or receptionists on protocol if an employee interacts with someone who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms. Establish a plan with your partner health care provider on how the person, and those exposed, will be removed from the premises and treated.

  • Require employees to “qualify” to return to the workplace by completing on-line training for new workplace hygiene behaviour.

  • Install contactless temperature scanners and take employees’ temperature when they enter the office. 

  • Provide information for employees who are not feeling well regarding what to do immediately, including numbers of local health care professionals and the designated company contact.

  • Stagger employee arrival and departure hours to limit densities in elevator cabs.

  • To reduce touching of door handles, leave office and conference room doors open unless there is an absolute need for privacy.

  • Encourage people to collaborate virtually, rather than in a conference room, whenever possible. Ask, “can this meeting be a virtual conference call?”

  • Establish a procedure for employees to clear the desk they have used of all personal items at the end of each day.

 

Re-imagine your workplace - touchless entry facial recognition
Going contactless with technology such as installing touchless door openers or facial recognition software for access will enable safer workplaces


#4 Communication and Navigation

  • Install signs to inform visitors of safe distance rules, hand washing and sanitising, gathering, queuing at coffee stations and wearing of masks in public areas.

  • Using signage, create one-way, clockwise paths through space — tape arrows on the floor to indicate direction.

  • In conference rooms, after removing every other seat, put tape markers on floors to indicate safe 1-metre clearances between seats.

  • Put marks on the floor to indicate safe 1-metre queuing distances near copiers.

 

#5 Hygiene and Cleaning

  • Empower employees to take care of their own hygiene safety, such as wearing face masks properly and ensuring safe work practices.

  • Place dispensers of alcohol-based (60% minimum) hand sanitisers prominently throughout the space.

  • Discourage employees from using other employee’s phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment.

  • Provide disposable disinfectant wipes for employees to clean their work surfaces, task lighting, chair backs and other touchable surfaces in their work area.

  • Provide access to trusted health information and provide regular briefings on hygiene.

  • Throughout the day, clean door pulls/handles, handrails, elevator buttons, badge readers, appliance handles, light switches, shared common areas, countertops, snack dispenser controls, sinks and faucets, copiers/fax machines and touchable pads in conference rooms.

  • Each night, clean all touchable surfaces including desktops, task lighting, light switches, chair backs and arms, drawer handles and desk height control.

 

Re-imagine your workplace social distancing
Have clear signages or markers around the office to enforce proper social distancing measures 

A pro tip from Stephen Bruce, Executive Director, Head of Real Estate Management Services: “Cleaners should make themselves more visible, especially in the high-density areas regularly. Allowing this will help reduce employees’ stress levels and build trust.”

These are only a sampling of the initiatives that companies are taking to get their workplaces ready for their employees’ return. Like a lot of occupiers and real estate professionals, Colliers is navigating through this unprecedented time and will continue to share our insights and recommendations as they develop. Our collective experiences now will shape the workplace for years to come.

Talk to our team of experts today for a holistic solution including Project Management to address space reconfigurations, Workplace Advisory to assess the impact of remote work and implications on the future allocation of space, as well as Asset and Facilities Management to improve the efficiency of office operations.

 

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Related Experts

Rick Thomas

Managing Director | Asia

Emerging Markets

Singapore

As Managing Director of Emerging Markets, I am responsible for expanding Colliers’ client base and identifying new business and opportunities for cross-border collaboration in partnership with the Managing Directors of our emerging markets businesses. Our emerging markets portfolio includes operations in Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Korea, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

 

Based in Singapore, I have over 22 years of experience in the commercial real estate industry.

View expert

CheeBeng Ong

Associate Director

Project Management

Singapore

Chee Beng has more than 19  years of experience in the corporate interior sector, focusing on project management, strategic and space planning. He is knowledgeable in space management and strategy, as well as delivery of the whole project. 

Chee Beng is a key member of the Colliers team, and has lead the successful delivery of projects time and again, ensuring budgets are adhered to and key dates are achieved. He is excellent and driving projects in such a way as to maintain the required quality standards. He manages the various stakeholders and is key in maintaining client relations, as well as ensuring relationships within his team remain focused and pro-active.

 

View expert

Stephen Bruce

Executive Director & Head

Real Estate Management Services

Singapore

As Head of REMS Singapore my role is to develop and drive the REMS business and team for wider success. My passion in real estate started young with a focus on asset management and later into consultancy. I have over 17 years of experience working for an on behalf of landlords throughout the Asia region. I have worked closely across portfolio landlords and single-strata landlords alike. A core focus has been how to improve the productivity, efficiency and service delivery for assets to ensure we can acheive the best possible outcome.

I have worked across several disciplines across real estate - a focus has been on asset management and property management for and behalf of Landlords. A great passion is how we can alter the industry towards adoption of ESG policies, methods and deliverables in tandem with management operations. With new technology now a major focus in real estate, the industry has become more exciting than ever before.”

I am a passionate believer of real collaboration and encourage cross department learning as much as possible. A win for one team should always create a strong and positive opportunity for another.

As a father of 2 young girls I am constantly on the look-out for new and exciting adventures to expose them to. A keen tennis and hockey player, I can often be found hitting a ball somewhere.

View expert