The good news is that the world is finally starting to open up again after the 2020 lockdown.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that some things have permanently changed, especially when it comes to working in the office.
Here we will take a look at how life in the workplace will look over the next few years.
Workers returning to offices sooner than expected
Four out of five workers will head back to the office when the pandemic is over, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
This is a sizeable increase in the number of employees that were expected to return after the end of lockdown at the end of 2020, when the number was estimated at 60%.
The increase in employees willing to return to the office can be attributed to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme and workplaces evolving to meet the needs of staff.
There are also employees for whom the novelty of working from home has worn off.
Workplaces will be redesigned
Businesses have had to redevelop their workplaces to accommodate employee needs over the past year. These changes will continue in 2021 and beyond.
According to OBI, 70% of businesses have said they will need to adapt their workplace design after the pandemic.
Reasons why include:
- More staff working from home (either permanently or with the introduction of flexible/hybrid working)
- Additional technology needed to facilitate changes in working patterns and for video conferencing
- Extra space for hot-desking staff
- Changes to office workflow to ease congestion and traffic in and out of the building
- More collaboration spaces
- More space to help with social distancing requirements
- Altering the building's ventilation to help improve air quality
- New perks to encourage staff to come back to the workplace, including bar areas and spaces to grow fruits, flowers and vegetables
One in ten companies said that they would need more space to carry out business moving forward.
More staff working from home
Even though the offices are reopening, staff are still working from home.
Last March, 47% of everyone in employment did some work at home. Although some staff have now returned to the office, some people are working from home permanently, with others balancing working at the office alongside remote working.
The rise of the 'third workplace'
With hybrid working becoming more commonplace, 'third workplaces' are increasing in popularity. These are cafes, pubs, hotels, coffee shops and co-working spaces where staff can work.
Third workplaces are popular with staff as they do not have the distractions that home or the office can. Plus, working in a new environment can help foster creativity.
There are now even startups that focus on helping staff find temporary office space
How does electrical compliance come into this?
If you redesign your office or have staff working from home, you will need to consider the following:
Electrical equipment testing (PAT testing)
You may have additional equipment that needs testing. For example, monitors and electrical equipment in video conferencing rooms, or extension leads required to help space staff desks out.
If you have staff working from home, you are still responsible for their health and safety when they are not in the office, in line with the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974). It is essential to ensure that their electrical equipment (for example, laptops and monitors) are safe for use.
EICR inspections (fixed wire testing)
If you are amending your office building layout, you may need to install new electrical installations, like lighting fixtures and plug sockets.
You should test electrical installations every five years in an office environment to ensure your staff's safety.
Emergency lighting testing
If you change your building's layout to accommodate staff workflow, you may need to review your emergency lighting. This will help ensure it will safely lead staff, visitors and customers out of your building.
You need to test this emergency lighting regularly to ensure that the rechargeable batteries it uses will work in an emergency.
If you are returning to your office after a long period away, it is advisable to retest your emergency lighting to check that it hasn't discharged while the office has been closed.
Fire risk assessments
When you have a fire risk assessment in place, it’s important to review it regularly.
Circumstances can change, meaning that the fire risk assessment you have for your building may no longer be fit for purpose. This is especially true if you are returning to your office after spending lockdown working at home.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 says that any fire risk assessment should be ‘reviewed by the responsible person regularly so as to keep it up to date’.
The law doesn’t define what is meant by ‘regularly’ but we would recommend that you review your fire risk assessment at least once a year. Even small changes can have a major impact on how staff, visitors and tenants can exit your building in an emergency.
You should review your fire risk assessment if your circumstances change. For example:
- You start to use flammable or hazardous materials
- You start to carry out ‘high risk’ tasks on-site or there is a change in business activity
- You move around furniture or machinery
- There are changes to the building’s layout
- You build an extension
- More people are using the building, or staff numbers change substantially
- You hire a younger, older or disabled person
- There has been a fire
- Fire safety equipment is stolen, replaced or damaged
Fire alarm servicing
All businesses must have an appropriate fire detection system in place, which means a fire alarm system for most buildings.
You need to have fire alarms in places where all staff can hear (as well as see) them in an emergency. This means that if your office structure changes, you may need to review your current system.
This fire alarm system needs to be tested every week, with a more thorough service carried out every six months to ensure it is functional.
Like emergency lighting, it's advisable to retest your fire alarm system if it has been disconnected from the mains for a long period of time.
If you are looking for a company to look after all of your electrical compliance needs, Hawkesworth is here to help.
From PAT testing, EICR, fire alarm servicing, fire risk assessment and emergency lighting, we can offer a fully comprehensive maintenance service for your business.
We also provide thermal imaging as well as electric vehicle charging point installation and maintenance.
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