The Office a Safe Workplace, the 4R's - 10 Tips for HR

Updated: Aug 9, 2020

1. Workplace responsibility "door to door"

2. Travel to work

3. Visitor Management

4. Meeting Rooms

5. Desking and Spacing

6. Sanitising

7. Management of desking

8. Linking to visitor management

9. Tools that are useful

10. ROI Return on Investment

1. Workplace responsibility "door to door"

Shift number one is responsibility for the employee now starts at their front door not the office.

That is a step change that brings in Human Resources and Legal as the first players in the considerations and not least the employee.

- HR will have to own the responsibility for psychological safety of the employee.

Guidelines on Why you come to work, on what occasions, now rear their head.

Thankfully widespread Virtual Meeting Room use has drastically reduced the "need to meet" physically.

Microsoft Teams part of the safe workplace strategy
Microsoft Teams part of the safe workplace strategy

And the real question will it drop back?

Continue to grow?

Whether it grows or not the adoption shift has been huge for both Teams and Zoom, 10's of millions of new and active subscribers per day.

Its testimony to how both companies built to scale, that they could absorb so much growth, which, we need to be really thankful for.

Ask this very serious question, if technology companies had not shifted to cloud applications?

- think of the damage that would have occurred to companies and society.

- I for one, am grateful they designed scale into their engineering architecture.

On the flip-side

Look at the impact on pollution that the drastic cut in travel delivered!

Will we return to the office, in the same numbers?

Do we want to?

However, right now we are very fortunate to have a choice and the younger generation will probably keep us honest and say "why are you making a conscious choice, NOT to save the planet?“

So moving gently, the morale question to one side, HR have a serious question to ask:

- Who needs to come in?

- What work style will they need?

- Are they coming in to be present?

- Is presenteeism dead?

Legal have another question(s), how on earth do I protect the company that pays me, when the guidelines and rules, change every week?

How I keep up to date?

How do we update people quickly?

I need to be sure we are not walking into a lawsuit here!

2. Travel to work

Social distancing, Physical distancing, workplace distancing is going to be a phenomenon for 6-12 months minimum, till vaccines are found, innoculations carried out.

So the Train and Tube, how is that going to work?

Distancing on the Northern line?

At the very least "phased travel" is not just a necessity, it's absolutely vital. So will big cities be busy again, for the next year?

I can't see it after a year changing back for good, the consequences for real estate will be significant as:

- CEO's have learnt their companies can still be very productive with large home working, employee fleets.

- Managers have seen they can manage and NOT manage, as the case may be and are very clear on home working.

- Team members have adopted the new work style in 10's of millions and a number of them, will never go back.

- The millenials have realised, not only are they right about the planet, now is the time to push home, the advantage.

3. Visitor Management

The needs of the employee have shifted:

- make sure you vet whose coming in and their pandemic status!

- if you don't, i'll stay at home.

- if you do my "psychological well being antenna” are now a little bit more relaxed.

What else?

- I don't want to see lots of surfaces I have to touch or the visitors do.

- I'd like not to go to reception and see a "crowd", when I just took the decision, to come In to work

- I'd expect there to be very high, however frictionless levels of workplace safety and security.

If you deliver those then you will have ticked the "psychological wellbeing" box!

HR & Legal have to look at another view entirely, how do I cater for three very different workforce populations?

We still do not know if Coronavirus recurs, so for now, we will assume everyone who's had it, can be reinfected, the cautious legal view.

Q1: How do we stop ANY INFECTED person coming into the workplace?

Answer, NOT with thermal cameras, we need ones that are deadly accurate and cannot be influenced by a courier, taking his/her helmet off!

The new generation of "core temperature cameras" monitor tear duct temperature, as the carotid artery passes right behind it, they are extremely accurate and reassuringly expensive.

Therefore make sure you get cameras fitted which are certified to ISO IEC 80601-2-59:2017, ie can medically deliver detection levels with 0.2 of a degree accuracy, which gives you peace of mind. Especially if the “alerts” are feed into visitor management or employee workflows.

4R’s Core temperature sensing
Core temperature sensing

We covered visitor management solutions, at some length last week so here are the links to both solutions, that we recommend.

4. Meeting Rooms

There are many ways of protecting employees in the workplace, however, the meeting room of today, we believe, will evolve into much smaller collaboration units or spaces.

The days of lovely 12 person, 20 person board rooms, are for the minute, gone.

Now its 3/4 person meeting rooms, where office based team members can co-ordinate and collaborate with Virtual attendees.

What do we think that looks like?

"Lots of pods" with a very high spec audio and visual connectivity and capability to Teams/Zoom or the alternatives.

We have mentioned these two enough, so here are the other runners in that race.

  • Meeting rooms sizes will reduce not just to cater for collaboration, but to expand office space for desks.

  • Deep cleaning will be a must, as will be the safety aspect, that the cleaning was definitely completed.

  • Track and Tracing meeting attendees another key requirement, should someone get infected.

  • We recommend one vendor in this category, as they have the following 10 key credentials:

  1. Global scale based on Azure covering 130 countries.

  2. Cloud based offering giving the ability to deploy quickly and scale like Zoom/Teams have just done.

  3. They can cater for simplistic and complex bookings.

  4. They handle vendors and cleaning very well, telling the cleaning vendor what to clean and then enabling them to change the desk status to “ready to book”.

  5. They integrate with other vendors in visitor management , visual collaboration and many more.

  6. They are based on Azure and therefore scale and security are catered for, as well as sovereign data concerns.

  7. Buffer time to prep or santise the room is built into their APP.

  8. Mobile and Microsoft Outlook booking routes are catered for.

  9. They can help deliver a touchless experience.

  10. The have a very cool Microsoft sync feature that enables exchange resources to be updated in real time, ie no double bookings.

5. Desking and Spacing

Hot desking and free addressing, will by necessity be banned, for reasons of safety, santisation and distance control alone.

In will come, booking and sanitisation, track and trace and for most only 50% of the office seats we once had (distancing and offsetting impact)

The consequences are huge, 1.2-1.6:1 , people:desk ratios were common in the past and pressure on desk space, consequently light.

However, now with distance and “not opposite” seating the ratios have rocketed, 2.4-3.2:1 are the norm, which means we have to manage space and it’s hygiene levels, very closely, with pressure on space potentially very high. That level of margin of error and efficiency needs “managing” : see later section.

There are very few desk management vendors that are Covid ready and can:

  • Scale globally (Team and Zoom like scaling)

  • Deploy 1000's of desks in weeks

  • Deliver a solution that has been thought through, allowing for management, sanitizing and safety.

  • Are software only (Hardware requires instal and that means delays to the recovery phase)

  • Have a touchless check in process, again key.

However, the key here is Gartner's thinking and guidance is in this humble authors opinion short sighted.


They have determined the 3R's respond,recover and renew as their phases of the pandemic, however, we are going to add a 4th R, Readiness.

What do we mean?

Responding to the Pandemic is obvious, recovering to the new norm equally obvious, renewing a simple logical next step, but to 30,000 people in the UK, it is very obvious, we were not READY.

Readiness, is therefore, what we believe you should look for, as you're final desk management attribute, if this happens again, we have to be READY, so do not look, for a short term fix, especially not when readiness cost £1 per week per desk!

So incorporating readiness into your planning not just on desking, is key.

4R's Respond, Recover, Renew and Readiness.

6. Sanitising

This is key, but can be left to the experts, the key here is "knowing what to deep clean" and "knowing it has been done", in the solution you look for ensure that these two attributes are coupled with normal health and safety, as well as psychological safety. That means take this opportunity to signpost, “we are taking deep cleaning” very seriously.

7. Management of desks and the workplace

We covered desking and spacing earlier, so here we are going wider. When thinking about the 4R's think about vendors who can handle the following:

  • Microsoft workflows your people can adopt quickly, if like 79% of companies you use Microsoft.

  • Room Booking

  • Desk Booking - with a mobile 1st emphasis

  • Vendor Management

  • Sanitisation

  • Visitor Management

  • Integration

  • Reporting

These 8 pillars of a strong solution you must ensure are delivered by as few a number of vendors as possible, why?

Speed, Safety and Solution solidarity are key, you have not got either the time or luxury of latitude, or margin of error to deal with slideware, or "we are adding these features shortly".

You will be effectively "risking lives" if you get this wrong.

How “ready to deploy” and how experienced in global deployments are crucial elements of vendor selection.

8. Linking or integrating to visitor management

Some vendors offer visitor management, however when you read the articles on the two recommended vendors you'll see , some vendors that offer a wide solution offer only a shallow one.

Look for vendors that integrate to the market leading visitor management systems and be VERY WARY of those that TRY and cover this area and are not specialists in it.

9. Tools that are useful

Relevant data is key, that is a very short phrase, however its extremely important.

DO NOT look at a single vendor data solution as 'most vendors" look through a filter, ie only their solutions data.

You need to cater for different stakeholders in your organisation.

These are some of the people that want to see the data on

- Desk usage

- Room usage

- Visitor flows

- Contact tracing

- Sanitisation

However that's a real estate lens, Human Resources want to see employees are safe, Legal want see we "demonstrably did the right thing" and can show we managed the pandemic transition phases.

Look for a solution that can take multiple slices of data and present them to different audiences.

10. ROI Return on Investment

Of course you can cut cleaning by not cleaning every desk, only those that need it.

Of course you can rationalise reception teams with touchless visitor management.

However the biggest return is "getting your entire company back to work safely!

The risk is

  • You have not thought about the 4R's.

  • You have used thermal cameras, not core temperature ones.

  • You did not use a strong visitor management solution and touchless processes.

  • You did not place psychological safety at the heart of your plan.

  • You scrimped on £1 a week per desk to get peace of mind and sanity.

  • You took the risk on multiple vendors that didn't integrate and deliver on time.

  • You didn't check they could scale like Teams and Zoom.

  • You didn't deliver on time and delayed the recovery phase.

  • You did think about the 3R's, but not the 4th, the full 4R workplace solution.

We hope you found the blog useful in framing your thinking.

56 views0 comments