Social distancing to bring explosion in office space
Extra space needed as staff have to spread out – but will greedy landlords pump up rents?
As businesses slowly begin to reopen after the Covid-19 lockdown, many employers are realising that their current offices may not be large enough to deal with the requirements of social distancing.
As one health and safety consultancy points out – employers are going to need loads of extra space to keep everybody the recommended two metres apart.
Health and safety software company Protecting.co.uk forecasts a rise in business owners looking to open additional offices in order to allow all their staff to return to work – but warns that greedy landlords may take this as an opportunity to pump up rents.
“Many staff members have been working from home for the last couple of months, but many bosses are keen to get everybody back to their desks,” says Mark Hall, company spokesman. “But with the need to spread everyone out, larger workspaces are needed to keep them all safe.”
More space required
With up to 60% of employees unable to return to their regular place of work due to social distancing requirements, it’s clear that an office space boom is on the way.
Protecting.co.uk has already reported that due to social distancing, businesses will on average only be able to bring back 40% of staff to their current workplaces.
“This is why businesses owners are looking to rent second offices, so that they can bring everyone back in a way that keeps everyone safe,” says Hall.
One office manager tells us: “We need to get our people back and we can’t go 100% due to the new guidelines, so we are currently looking for a short-term office.”
“Hopefully, landlords and office brokers won’t be price gouging.”
An IT company boss in the Midlands says: “I’m hoping the government will support us, and won’t charge us business rates on these essential second offices. Otherwise, I’ll have to keep my staff on furlough, which is costly for the taxpayer.”
Mark Hall of Protecting.co.uk notes the danger of price inflation from greedy landlords: “A lot of businesses are wanting to get their staff back, but don’t want to be stung with hiked-up rents in order to get their businesses back up and running.
“The government needs to offer some kind of incentive to use empty commercial properties to get more people safely back to their desks.”
Easing workplace anxieties
The rise in the need of second offices opening as lockdown measures are eased, comes as it is revealed that two in five people are anxious about returning to work
“Workers who have been living in strict lockdown restrictions for the last few weeks will undoubtedly be concerned about having to return to their workplace and be surrounded by people,” says spokesman Mark Hall.
“Bosses will have to rebuild their trust and renting a new office space in order to promote social distancing is a big indicator that they are putting the needs of the staff above their bank balance.”
Workers who have been called back into the office or the new rented workspace can expect to see some big changes as businesses have a strict set of rules they must adhere to in order to guarantee the safety of staff.
Protecting.co.uk say that measures staff can expect to see include –
• One-way systems around the workplace
• Markings on the floor to indicate spacings
• Cubicles and partitions to allow for barriers between workers
• PPE use such as masks and gloves if necessary
• More handwashing stations available
• More cleaning of equipment
Mark Hall: “Instead of working in open-plan offices, people will find they will each have their own designated space to keep them safely apart from others.”
However, the extra space provided by second premises is not likely to be a long-term fixture for many bosses who are just looking for a simple solution to getting work back up and running.
The practice of social distancing only looks likely to continue until a vaccine against Covid-19 is made available to the public, which could be as soon as September if current trials prove to be a success – but more likely next year.
“This is why businesses are only looking to rent new premises for the short-term, because as soon as social distancing ends, employers can get all of their staff back into the same office and running as normal,” says Hall.
Soon enough, it will be business as usual.
To help aid businesses to operate safely when returning to work protecting.co.uk has created a free to use risk assessment for COVID-19 which can be found here https://protecting.co.uk/covid-19-risk-assessment/