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Working from Home: Week 6

Working from Home: Week 6

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So that’s the sixth week of lockdown/Working From Home (WFH) over. Having had some novelty value in the early weeks, it’s now becoming the norm and routine.

At the end of this week we have the VE-Day Bank Holiday (I still don’t quite understand why we had to lose out on the May Day holiday – couldn’t we just have had two days-off?!). The 75th anniversary of VE-Day and the fact that PM Boris Johnson is keen on comparing the COVID-19 situation to a ‘war’ made me give some consideration to the expected changes in the lockdown that may be made after this coming weekend.

Patience is a virtue

If we look back at May 1945, Winston Churchill and King George VI both made speeches announcing the end of the war in Europe. However, they were clear in pointing out that although one war was over, another in Asia was still raging and was still going to take further endeavour and additional sacrifice. Now, I’m not trying to compare the two situations directly, but it occurs to me that although the ‘curve’ may have been flattened, there is still some way to go in the ‘fight’ against COVID-19 and therefore we shouldn’t expect a green light to return to office-based work just yet. Patience is the key to success here.

If we look at the concepts of social distancing and the spread of COVID-19 then consider the following when looking at going back to office rather than WFH.

Even if your office space can allow for 2-metre ‘exclusion zones’ around each desk:

  • What about reception areas?
- How are employees going to open doors without touching hard surfaces that may have COVID-19 on them?
- How will signing-in take place?
- Most businesses will share a communal reception area with other companies not just colleagues, so how will this complicate matters?

  • Lifts and stairs
- If only one person is allowed in the lift at a time, then it’s going to take a long time for 10 employees to access their upper floor office, and who is disinfecting the lift controls after each use?
- If the stairs are to be used, how do we cope with the potential of meeting a colleague coming up as we are going down? Again, who is responsible for sanitising the hand-rails?

  • Moving around the office
- Is it really feasible to keep 2 metres or even a metre distance at all times? Most office corridors are not very wide, and are one-way systems workable?
- What about shared office equipment – printers, laminators, binders, franking machines?

  • Toilets, refreshments and rest areas
- Again for many businesses these will be shared facilities, so are rotas or timetables workable?

  • Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
- Should the wearing of face masks and gloves in offices be compulsory? What are the sanctions for non-adherence? What happens if two companies sharing the same office facilities have different processes/protocols in relation to PPE? Who is sourcing and paying for PPE?

You will see that there are a considerable number of questions and processes to be worked through simply in the act of working in an office space – all this without even contemplating about travel to the office and public transport!

Going back to thinking about 1945 and VE-Day, the fighting stopped but the effects of the war went on for years. Rationing of food continued until 4 July 1954, nine years after the war had ended. We might be at a turning point in the conflict with COVID-19, but the effects, including WFH, will be here for a while yet.

Keeping healthy while WFH

Look after yourself. Generally speaking, we aren’t in a position to influence when we will be able to start returning to office-based working. It is out of our control. Worrying about matters that we can’t control will adversely affect our mental health. We should leave these matters to those who have the authority to deal with them and instead concentrate on the issues that we can impact:

  • Keeping in touch with colleagues
  • Juggling home-schooling and WFH
  • Keeping healthy
  • Staying as productive as possible given the situation
Overthinking and worrying about what comes next (unless that is actually your role in the organisation) will give you sleepless nights, increased anxiety and stress.

Returning to the workplace will be subject to very detailed risk assessments and health and safety considerations. My thoughts are that the lockdown will remain in place in one form or another for quite a while yet; so carry on with business as usual, under the (new!) normal.

Remember:
#stayathomesavelives #protectTheNHS