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RIAI Guidance on Returning to Offices (Updated September 2021)
The RIAI has published guidance on the reopening of offices. With the Government announcement earlier this month that employees may return to the office on a phased basis from September 20, more normal working conditions are set to resume in the coming months.
With many architectural practices and other business undertaking a return or partial return to the office, the RIAI has today published guidance and Top Tips for the reopening of office space. These tips will allow businesses to proceed with reopening in a safe and responsible manner.
Speaking about the publication of the guidance, RIAI President Ciaran O’Connor FRIAI said, “After a very challenging eighteen months, we’re delighted to announce our guidance for a safe and effective reopening of offices. Industries around the world, including architectural practices, have been affected by remote working and it is with these top tips that we hope to be able to return to a more normal way of operating. We fully support all of our employees’ personal preferences regarding a hybrid work environment, and will of course continue to revise our guidance and tips as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve.”
The RIAI Top Tips for office reopening:
- Engage with employees to plan the return to the office: A well-planned communications strategy will ensure that all staff feel consulted and well briefed on what to expect when returning to the office and the safety protocols which are now in place. All stakeholder communications should be well thought out, in the interest of the business and staff.
- Encourage personal responsibility: All parties should be conscious of safe personal hygiene and infection control practices as a fundamental change in habit, whether in the workplace, whilst commuting, or whilst working remotely.
- Carry out a workplace risk assessment: Assess the office’s work practices in relation to COVID-19 to identify areas which need to be addressed.
- Review the office layout and prepare for a safe return: Implement appropriate control measures within the office environment to ensure as far as reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare of employees.
- Update office protocols: Update the business COVID-19 response plan, and set up an office contract tracing log, implement daily temperature checks and introduce appropriate cleaning protocols.
- Provide training to update employees on new safe work procedures: Ensure that all employees have information, instruction and training in relation to safe workplace procedures. Establish a clear business response plan for prompt identification and isolation of colleagues who may have symptoms.
- Consider hybrid, virtual or office working: Use this period as a positive step towards a holistic review of the business. Are any facilities required to be upgraded within the office to facilitate the increased use of video-conferencing and hybrid meetings? Perhaps flexible/hybrid/part-time working should be considered as an opportunity to access a larger talent pool from a broader demographic and background, including people with a disability.
- Promote mental health and wellbeing for all within the workplace: Changing work situations can cause concern; regular and open communication channels between employers and employees are important to be maintained during this phase to alleviate concerns.
- Promote safe commutes to and from workplaces or sites: Employers should review commuting patterns with employees to take into account overcrowding, appropriate use of PPE and where possible promote safe ways to commute to the office.
- Allow for flexibility: Whilst information about COVID-19 continues to evolve, it is important for employers and employees to recognise that flexibility and awareness is required in implementing the return to the office, and also in adhering to up-to-date advice as the situation and guidance may vary.
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