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 flexible way of working for as long as required, given the continued challenges we face due to COVID-19.

As a Practice, we are keen to re-establish strong team connections and a sense of being part of a practice community as safely as possible, and 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 visitors to the studios will have their own specific policy.

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 in line with Government guidance 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, unless a medical exemption applies. 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 keep it near you. Face masks 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

The preferred methods of commute are cycling or walking as this ensures you are in the open air. Employees unable to find alternatives to using tubes, trains and buses should try to keep a safe distance from those around you and follow additional guidance outlined in the Control Measures section of the risk assessments issued to you.

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

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.

Revised seating locations have been provided by directors and partners prior to returning to studios. Back-to-back and side-to-side 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

Flexible work patterns in terms of number of days in the studio are being implemented in some cases. Partners and directors will aim to reduce the number of people each person has contact with by keeping teams fixed where possible, as well as ensuring activity time is as short as possible.

Where required for the time being, on-going consideration will still be given to:

  • Existing health conditions that fall under the clinically extremely vulnerable and clinically vulnerable persons category (although currently less critical)
  • Living arrangements with key workers or extremely vulnerable persons (although currently less critical)
  • Extent to which the work can continue to be carried out from home
  • 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 these instances. Employees who have concerns should raise these as soon as possible with the relevant partner or director, or with HR.

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. Access to fridges, microwaves and dishwashers will be permitted provided that social distancing is maintained, face coverings are worn (unless an exemption applies) and time spent in kitchen is kept to a minimum. Lunchtimes may be staggered to avoid overloading as use of café areas will be heavily restricted. Lunches and flasks should be brought in. Items not requiring refrigeration must be stored safely under your desk. Employees should eat lunches at their desks, unless a heavily restricted use of café seating is permitted.


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

Sanitise hands after touching door handles, ‘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. Where a medical exemption exists, employees can make full use of the stairs rather than the lift. Sanitise hands before and after use.

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, sanitise hands before and after touching the keypad, doors and handles.

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

Client and visitor numbers to the studios should be restricted in line with Government guidance, if virtual meetings are not possible. An allocated person from the studio will have host responsibilities to clearly explain the health and safety procedures in place. This may be an employee involved in the meeting.

Postal deliveries

Delivery personnel are required to deposit post and parcels to one side of reception in a clearly allocated area. Sanitise hands 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 positioned away from reception.

Personal deliveries

To reduce direct interactions, personal deliveries to the studio should be kept to a minimum for the time being, unless absolutely necessary.

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 continuing to be instructed to prioritise cleaning of high-touch items such as door handles, doors, meeting room tables, kitchen areas, banisters, key pads, non-designated phones and other equipment as well as fixtures and fittings used by multiple persons. Hot-desk spaces will be an area of focus, though, all shared desks and equipment such as keyboards or photocopiers must be sanitised straight after use, 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.