COVID-19 Returning to Work Policy

Key Principles and Purpose:

We are committed to ensuring the physical and mental wellbeing of everyone when coming back to work, fully acknowledging the need to adopt a new way of working for as long as is necessary and as part of a phased return owing to the continued challenges we face due to COVID-19.

As a Practice, we are keen to achieve a ‘new normal’ in terms of working arrangements as swiftly, but as safely as possible to re-establish strong team connections and a sense of being part of a practice community. We recognise that this will take time and also appreciate that there will be a preference for greater flexibility where individual circumstances support or require this, and we will aim to accommodate requests as and when they arise.

As we gradually start to make the shift towards a return to studio life, albeit on a carefully managed basis, this policy is intended to outline the necessary requirements and measures to be observed when returning to work. It is applicable to all employees as well as those contracted to provide services to the Practice, clients and other visitors to the studios.

This policy also defines levels of responsibility of various parties in ensuring strict adherence to defined requirements and measures. These will be subject to changes based on the gradual relaxation of measures and guidance outlined by the Government and also our own internal reviews.

Safety and hygiene protocols:

Provision and use of safety and hygiene products
Face coverings must be worn when moving about in the studio and when on site. This also applies to your journey to work if you are travelling in a confined space. Try to limit touching your face covering throughout the day as much as possible and when you are removing your mask when sat at your desk, make sure that you only place it near you and avoid putting it down on other surfaces. If you have worn gloves on your journey in, remove these and store them securely about your person before you come into the studio. You should carry a pair of surgical gloves in case of emergency. Face masks and surgical gloves will be available upon request at reception.

A combination of hand sanitisers/antibacterial gels, hygienic wipes, anti-bac sprays and tissues will be located at key points such as kitchen/café areas, coffee/tea points, toilet basins, receptions, meeting rooms, post rooms, print/photocopy and communal areas, and should be regularly used at every opportunity. We will take every possible precaution to ensure social distancing.

Rigorous handwashing as per published Government guidelines, particularly following visits to toilets and kitchen areas, must be observed. Notices will be placed in these areas as reminders.
Use available hygiene products to clean phones and control panels after all meetings. The same applies when using photocopiers and printers.

A forehead thermometer located in reception areas, is available for voluntary use by employees and those consultants who regularly attend the studio, on arrival at the studio. Instructions will be provided. If the thermometer indicates a temperature above the specified ‘safe’ level, then that employee or consultant will not be permitted to remain in the studio. Employees and consultants are asked to pay attention to any Covid-19 type symptoms they may be experiencing ahead of starting their journey in. If you are in any doubt, stay at home.

Social distancing
Ensuring you endeavour to keep at a safe distance remains paramount with your journey to and from, and whilst inside the studio. Numbers of employees in each studio must be restricted for the time being as a consequence.

Increased signage, floor stickers and tape markers
Where deemed necessary, we will use markers or stickers to indicate safe standing or seating distances in areas such as receptions, print rooms and meeting rooms. All employees must ensure they abide by these safe distance indicators wherever they appear in both communal and workspaces.

Prior agreement to be in the studio
Do not just turn up. Attendance at the studio must have been agreed prior to arrival by a director or partner. Where attendance has been prior agreed, if you start to experience signs of being unwell with COVID-19 type symptoms, you should not attempt to come to the studio and should notify the relevant PA or team coordinator who will then advise the relevant director or partner of this. When you are fully recovered and well enough to come in, a prior agreement should be obtained again.

Plan your journey
Employees should find alternatives to using tubes, trains and buses. The preferred methods would be cycling or walking as this ensures you are in the open air. Try to keep a safe distance from those around you. Aim to wear a face covering and gloves of some sort. If public transport is the only option, aim to travel outside of peak times. A face covering is obligatory and gloves are strongly advised.

Those opting to cycle when they otherwise would not have done so, who find the bikes store is full owing to popularity, may need to store their bikes in other designated areas to be advised by the relevant studio.

Space planning considerations:

Studio seating arrangements
Existing studio seating plans have been reviewed to identify maximum headcount capacity at any one time in order to satisfy the need to work at a safe distance.

Bearing in mind the current need to heavily restrict numbers, it is anticipated that front end teams will mostly be asked to attend the studio in person given the challenges of undertaking design work remotely.

Seating locations will be planned prior to each phased return and based on the minimum number needed. These will be provided by directors and partners. Back-to-back and side-toside working will be adopted whenever possible. Depending on the studio, where required, screen guards will be in place. Hot-desking areas will also be restricted and must be thoroughly cleaned after use.

Staggering teams
Where possible, different start times during the day will apply, as well as flexible work patterns. Partners and directors will aim to reduce the number of people each person has contact with by keeping teams fixed, as well as ensuring activity time is as short as possible.

Consideration by partners and directors will also be given to:

  • Existing health conditions that fall under the clinically extremely vulnerable and clinically vulnerable persons category
  • Living arrangements with key workers or extremely vulnerable persons
  • Extent to which the work can continue to be carried out from home
  • Parental or carer responsibilities
  • Legitimate concerns over health and safety expressed by employees
  • Legitimate needs to be in the studio rather than working from home

HR will support where necessary in determining those who fall into these categories.

Once informed decisions are made, employees will be contacted and any current concerns in respect of their return to the studio will be discussed with a view to identifying and agreeing the best solution.

Employees will be issued with a seating plan by email so that they know where their allocated workstation is ahead of coming in.

Those in support roles who have received prior agreement to be in the studio from the relevant partner will also be subject to planned seating locations issued ahead of their arrival by a member of admin support.

Clear desk policy
Unnecessary personal belongings should be kept to an absolute minimum and desks kept clear to enable effective cleaning and maintaining of a hygienic workspace.

Meeting rooms
Meeting rooms will have maximum person limitations applied and social distancing restrictions in place for seating to ensure it is possible to sit at an acceptable distance from one another. Maximum number signs will be displayed outside each room. Discussions that might otherwise have taken place around a laptop must be via the wall-mounted screens or by some other means. Pre-book meeting rooms to avoid jumping in and potentially creating a bottleneck when the room has been booked by someone else.

Kitchen areas
Do not hang about unnecessarily in these areas. Keep well back or return to your desk until it is ‘safe’ to try again. Safe distance stickers will be displayed, and access to fridges and microwaves will be restricted. Lunchtimes may be staggered to avoid overloading as use of café areas will be heavily restricted. Packed lunches and flasks should be brought in. These must be stored safely under your desk.

The appropriate signage is displayed to specify maximum numbers at any one time. Cubicles and urinals not in use are clearly indicated. With reduced employee numbers in the studios, it should be possible to keep potential queues to a minimum. Employees need to pay attention to social distancing and, at best, avoid standing around in communal areas outside of toilets when waiting to use the facilities.

Landlord re-occupation assessments in public areas (lobbies, lifts, stairways)
Where applicable to the studio, risk assessments have been rigorously undertaken and in collaboration with tenant companies. Everyone is required to follow any notices or instructions relating to these areas.

Shower rooms
Ensure you stand well clear of the door opening. If not possible, wait elsewhere at a safe distance from others, until the facilities are free. Staggered arrival times should reduce waiting times.

Locker spaces and cloakrooms
Be observant of others in these areas and limit to one person at a time, aiming to be a quick as possible.

Reception doors and areas
Try to avoid touching door handles by using a tissue. If possible and where applicable, elbows or a pen can be used for both ‘press to open’ button, intercom button and door entry code buttons.

Other communal areas
Post rooms, print areas and break-out spaces are subject to the same social distancing rules. Signage will be displayed to indicate maximum person restrictions.

High density walkways
In certain instances, it will not be possible to establish one-way movement flows. Give Priority signage will be displayed. You should remain vigilant at all times of others’ whereabouts and aim to limit your movement around the studio as much as possible.

Lifts and stairwells
As indicated by the appropriate signage, go up in the lifts only and down using the stairs in single file, maintaining a safe distance from the person in front of you. Lifts will have a maximum occupancy number indicated. Use an elbow or a pen to summon the lift and also to press buttons once inside the lift.

Library area – London studio only
Restricted to one person at a time.

Prayer room - London studio only
Restricted to one person at a time. Continue to use sign to indicate when the room is occupied. If required, the use of room 1E may be made available again. Maximum occupancy restrictions will apply.

If you become unwell at work
If you start to develop COVID-19 symptoms while in the studio, notify reception immediately and then isolate yourself in one of the small meeting rooms initially. Use your mobile phone to contact the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call 111, for NHS advice. A full procedure document will be issued to you. If you become seriously ill or we believe your life is at risk, we will call 999.

Fire alarm drills and evacuation or accidents
In the event of a drill or evacuation, you should vacate the building as quickly as possible avoiding any unnecessary contact. You do not have to maintain social distancing if it would be unsafe to do so.

Smoking areas
Stand at a safe distance from others at designated smoking points.

All employees are expected to pay particular attention to social distancing rules and it is their responsibility to remind others.

Door alarms and locks
If you are the first one to arrive or the last one to leave, if possible wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching the keypad and door handle etc. The use of gloves or a tissue is preferred and must be disposed of immediately, or you could use the end of a pen to press the key pad buttons.

External visitors
A floor sticker will indicate a safe distance from reception. Signing in must be done by the person at reception to ensure both book and pen are used by one person all the time.

Hosting meetings
Unless absolutely vital, clients and other visitors should not attend the studio. Meetings should instead be conducted virtually. If this is unavoidable, then numbers must be restricted and an allocated person from the studio will have host responsibilities allocated and clearly explained to them. This may be one of the employees involved in the meeting who must explain the health and safety procedures in place.

Postal deliveries
Delivery personnel are required to deposit post and parcels to one side of reception in a clearly allocated area. Ideally gloves should be used when sorting letters and parcels for distribution around the studio. Where you are handling post, hands should be thoroughly washed straight afterwards. Any outgoing post awaiting collection should be kept away from reception.

Personal deliveries
To reduce direct interactions, personal deliveries to the studio must be avoided, unless absolutely necessary, which should be viable with the increased ability to work from home.

Bin (waste and recycling) collections
Refuse collectors are required to enter the premises (studios and toilets). Although they should be wearing the appropriate PPE in terms of face masks and gloves, employees should ensure they keep out of the way whilst they undertake their jobs.

Equipment repair
Ensure a sensible distance is maintained around engineers while they carry out their jobs and if possible, avoid having to walk around them.

Cleaning of studios
Cleaners are instructed to pay particular attention to disinfecting high-touch items such as door handles, doors, meeting room tables, kitchen areas, banisters, key pads, nondesignated phones and other equipment as well as fixtures and fittings used by multiple persons. Hot-desk spaces will be an area of focus. Any other shared equipment such as keyboards or photocopiers must be sanitised using available hygiene products readily available around the studio.

Site visits
Prior to attending site, ensure you have the appropriate PPE which includes the correct type of face mask and gloves. Maintain an acceptable level of distance from those around you, especially if you happen to be inside. Ensure you review and use the Personal Risk Assessment – Travel and Site Visit.