Since the onset of the global pandemic businesses have been thrown something of a curveball. All that were deemed non-essential were, of course, forced into closure for many weeks to help stop the spread of the virus, with business owners then having time to begin thinking about how they could open up safely, when the time is right.
From those working in offices through to hairdressers, restaurants and shops, all businesses are now faced with a new challenge and having to make changes to the layout of their premises quickly in order to find their feet again as the country eases out of lockdown and towards what many are deeming to be a ‘new normal’.
Employee and customer safety is, of course, paramount. But keeping timescales and cost to a minimum to make such changes is also important. After a period of closure for many, businesses will be eager to get their operation up and running quickly for financial reasons, but in doing so must ensure that their staff and members of the public are confident in returning and that health risks are minimised.
While social distancing looks to be here to stay for a while at least, what many people are craving after a long period of isolation is interaction with others. And this is what many working environments thrive on too. Open-plan offices are social spaces, retail staff work best when having face to face contact with their customers – it’s a way of life that the majority of us don’t wish to change. Many pre-Covid business environments are unsuited to the requirements concerning social distancing making changes necessary, but it is important to ensure that, particularly in office settings, the spaces remain places that are encourage the sharing of ideas, creativity and co-operation. The challenge therefore for businesses is to make their premises Covid-secure in a way that doesn’t compromise on this unnecessarily, while keeping everyone safe.
Government guidelines have been introduced to aid businesses ahead of any re-opening and these need to be adhered to quickly to be given the green light. From hand sanitiser stations to clear signage, there will be work to do to get things ready, particularly for those businesses that literally had to shut up shop almost overnight. Their world will need to look slightly different now and manufacturers have been working hard to ensure there are systems and solutions available to help them get things in place quickly, while keeping changes to a minimum, because familiarity is really what staff and customers need to see to build that confidence back up again.
From the very early days of the pandemic, when only essential shops were allowed to trade, we saw the first of these necessary changes, with supermarkets being quick to install plastic or glass screens at checkouts. This is something that is now being carried through to other businesses, helping to maintain that face-to-face contact while guarding against the spread of the virus. Government guidelines around making workplaces Covid secure also stipulate that for workers who have customer-facing roles, plastic screens should be erected to help protect them. More than likely then, that the long-overdue and very welcome first trip to the hairdressers post-lockdown will see clients being greeted by their stylist from behind such a screen.
For many such businesses, being able to retrofit such protective screens to existing furniture will be welcome news as it will mean that the layout of the workplace will not need to be altered too dramatically. Importantly too, this is a solution that can be implemented pretty much immediately and changed as required, as the situation develops and shifts over the course of time.
Clear plastic or glass also overcomes those aesthetic challenges, enabling light to flow in the same way as previously and ensuring that all the benefits of open-plan working environments can be retained.
Being able to use screens that are portable will be key for many businesses looking to adapt fast. Simple and very quick to set up, such screens will have fittings that don’t need to be screwed into furniture, which is good news for those not wishing to make permanent alterations or to potentially risk damaging existing fixtures. Usefully, portable partition fittings are also available in a variety of finishes, so that the whole thing can seamlessly blend into the environment without looking out of place. Those with an anti-slip base will be particularly useful for maximising health and safety where members of the public will be present, such as retail stores, while fittings that can be easily extended to increase the width of the barrier as required will be a good all-rounder that can be adapted as required to ensure a Covid-secure, safe and healthy workplaces going forward.