How can we make workplaces safe as we prepare for the new COVID-normal?

 08 Oct 2020

Mike Abbott, Marketing and Strategy Director, Zip Water

2020 has thrown traditional ways of working out the window. Those of us who work in an office environment have traded in our desk for the dining room table, our business suits for tracksuits, and in-person meetings for videoconferencing.

In the early days, many of us were revelling in our new-found flexibility, being more productive, efficient, and balancing work and life better than we ever had before. According to a recent poll of 1000 Australians conducted by the Australian Financial Review, 75% of workers don’t miss commuting to work and are saving, on average, 4.5 hours a week in commute time.

While the pandemic may have shown us that the future of work can be more flexible, a return to the office, in some capacity at least, is probable. Many workplaces globally have already started making the transition back to the office.

However, as we all keep hearing, we’re not returning to normal, but rather entering a new COVID-normal. And workplaces play a big part in the new COVID-normal. With the new COVID-normal comes an all new set of challenges that businesses may address in order to create a safer workplace.

According to a global survey conducted in July by market researchers Qualtrics, 74% of people working remotely through COVID-19 want employers to focus on taking action to make them feel confident about returning to work. In addition, 42% of respondents want their employers to focus on office hygiene when providing a pathway back to the office.

So just how can employers go about instilling confidence in their people as we prepare for a return to the workforce in the new COVID-normal world?

Forge a sense of purpose

Employees will respond positively if they see a clear vision on transitioning back to the office. Set stretch goals that will challenge, and at the same time remind them of the precautions they should take every day to keep themselves and their co-workers safe.

Minimise workplace contact

Research conducted by commercial fit-out specialists, Aston, states a person will come into contact with 43 different touch points on an average workday including the door to enter the building, the printer and the office coffee machine. Employers must look for new ways to minimise contact in the workplace to reduce the likelihood of transmission, whether that’s installing Perspex screens between desks, making every second desk spare, or placing markings on the floor to stipulate 1.5 metre social distancing.

Zip Water is playing its part in helping to reduce workplace contact too. We have just launched Zip HydroTap Touch-Free Wave, a contactless version of the flagship HydroTap system that can be found in many workplaces globally. The product is our solution to employers’ need to minimise touchpoints and instill confidence that the workplace is safe.

Build space for engagement

This is not necessarily a physical space, but space for people to connect, either in real life at a safe distance or online. These spaces allow people to ask questions and share concerns, and also help leaders gain and build trust. They’ll go a long way to reminding employees how much you value them and help to re-instill that sense of community that has been impacted by this period.

Create a plan and share it

Set up a cross-functional team that includes a health and safety expert to determine everyone’s health and safety needs. Evaluate your office’s floor plan, as well as the need for masks and other personal protective equipment. Once the plan has been decided upon, communicating it to your employees serves to both tell them the information they need to know, but also to demonstrate that you are taking action to keep people safe and productive.

Find out more about Zip HydroTap Touch-Free Wave