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How not to be an office Karen

Have you ever been stuck in a queue, held up by an angry person demanding to speak to a manager, because of something that probably could have been settled there and then? Maybe a joke didn’t go down too well with them, or they gave off a strong air of self-entitlement? Well, if so, you have more than likely come across a Karen

Maybe these traits are all too familiar. Maybe you are a Karen yourself or, perhaps, you know one? Are they the Karen of the office? Whichever it is, here are a few pointers on how not to be an office Karen!

1. Rein in the passive-aggressive emails

Try reining in the passive-aggressive tones in emails – and in notes for that matter. “As per my last email…” can read a lot like “like I said, you idiot…” 

Maybe you change the way you end emails depending on the subject or how frustrated you are, for instance, does ‘kind regards’ become just ‘regards’ when you’re annoyed? It’s best to just create an email signature that’s professionally friendly, and just stick to that.

2. Respond appropriately

Whatever the scenario or problem, always meet it with an appropriate response. The memetic Karen pictures of the internet often show an angry woman with the understanding being that she goes over the top and is overly demanding. Be reasonable, respectful and assess each case by merit. If in the office, a mistake has happened, or you’ve got a grievance (especially a minor one), take it up with the appropriate person and try to resolve it calmly.

3. Let someone else take the lead

If you’re always the one taking charge (unless you’re in a leadership or management capacity), step back every once in a while to let others have a go. Maybe it always has to be you organising things like work socials, where people go, and office decorations. Then, added on top of that, you may be the one getting extra stressed, taking it out on other staff members or always having to be the one to be confrontational. Sit back, relax and get on with your day’s work from the comfort of your own desk. Whenever there’s a work outing, are you always complaining and causing a scene? If there’s a problem and other colleagues think so too, let someone else take the lead for once. 

4. Keep calm

One of the surest ways to be typecast as a Karen is to go from 0-100 on the angry scale in no time, especially in situations where it really shouldn’t warrant it. You may find yourself programmed to go into a rant mode and start demanding things, yelling out your rights, being needlessly pedantic or being intentionally difficult. Regardless of who is in the wrong, try to remain calm and level-headed. Use those comfy office sofas and breakout areas to help destress.

5. Have a laugh

And finally, try to have a laugh! Sounds simple, but the Karens of the world are named so to fit the modern-day definition of a person who is very serious, often angry and very entitled. It’s important to remember that everyone has a job to do and mistakes can happen; everyone is not always out to get you or do you wrong. This also applies to office banter and jokes. Try not to get too offended when colleagues are bantering, especially when you understand the joke. Play along, relax and if you personally know an office Karen, try to have a laugh with them!

What’s your office alter ego, we wonder? Are you the office Karen, the Jobsworth Jane or the Banter Barry? Take our mini, fun quiz to find out! And if you find out you are indeed a Classic Karen, well, bookmark this page!

Workplace

A Guide to Social Distancing in the Workplace: Making Offices COVID-secure

Contents:

Latest government guidelines

[Written October 2020] 

As you’ll know, these are testing times. We are all currently dealing with and adapting to a world where COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon. New rules and policies are introduced almost weekly and, when your top priority is to keep everyone safe, it can be difficult to navigate this ‘new normal’, especially when it comes to returning to work. 

As of October 2020, the UK government’s latest campaign is: wash hands (keep washing hands regularly and for 20 seconds), cover face (wear a face covering in enclosed spaces) and make space (stay at least two metres apart – or one metre with a face covering or other precautions).  

There is an NHS test and trace procedure to help guide you through what to do if you’ve developed symptoms or if you think you’ve been in contact with someone who has. There’s also a handy NHS COVID-19 app to go alongside the test and trace service.

You can also find out what the local COVID-19 alert and restrictions are in your area with their postcode checker. Here, you’ll find out what alert level your area or borough is currently in and what restrictions are in place to help manage the level of outbreak. 

The current alert levels are (as of October 2020):

Tier 1 – Medium

The government lists Tier 1 (Medium) as the alert level for areas where national restrictions continue to be in place.

Restrictions:

  • No socialising in groups larger than six, indoors or outdoors (other than where a legal exemption applies). Find out why no more than six in our ‘Coronavirus: The facts’ section
  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-secure manner, other than those that remain closed by law
  • Certain businesses are required to ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and must close between 10pm and 5am
  • Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through
  • Schools and universities remain open 
  • Places of worship remain open, subject to the rule of six 
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees, currently 15 for wedding ceremonies and receptions, and 30 for funerals
  • Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors, or indoors if the rule of six is followed 

You must:

Wear a face covering in those areas where this is mandated, such as: 

  • Public transport 
  • Taxis and private hire vehicles
  • Transport hubs
  • Shops
  • Shopping centres, 
  • Supermarkets, 
  • Auction houses, 
  • Premises providing hospitality (bars, pubs, restaurants etc.) except when seated at a table to eat or drink 

Basically, anywhere that is a confined space for the public, especially indoor areas. For the full, detailed list, head to the government’s latest guidance page on face coverings

You should:

  • Follow social distancing rules
  • Work from home where you can effectively do so
  • When travelling, plan ahead or avoid busy times and routes. Walk or cycle if you can

Tier 2 – High

For areas with higher levels of infections, there are additional restrictions on top of those for medium-alert-level areas, like: 

Restrictions:

  • You must not socialise with anybody outside of your household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • You must not socialise in a group of more than 6 outside, including in a garden or other spaces like beaches or parks (other than where specific exemptions apply in law)
  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law
  • Certain businesses are required to ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and must close between 10pm and 5am
  • Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through
  • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees. The number of guests for wedding ceremonies and receptions is currently 15, whilst for funerals it is 30
  • Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors. These will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with or share a support bubble with, or for youth or disability sport
  • You can continue to travel to venues or amenities that are open, for work or to access education, but should look to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible

You must:

Wear a face covering in those areas where this is mandated, such as: 

  • Public transport
  • Taxis & private hire vehicles
  • Transport hubs
  • Shops
  • Shopping centres
  • Supermarkets
  • Auction houses
  • Premises providing hospitality (bars, pubs, restaurants etc.) except when seated at a table to eat or drink. 

You should:

  • Follow social distancing rules
  • Work from home where you can effectively do so
  • Walk or cycle where possible, or plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport

Tier 3 – Very high

For areas where the level of infections is very high, there are tighter restrictions in place; these can vary, and are based on discussions between central and local governments. You should check the specific rules in your area

Restrictions:

At a minimum, this means:

  • You must not socialise with anybody you do not live with, or have not formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting or in any private garden or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events
  • You must not socialise in a group of more than six in an outdoor public space such as a park or beach, the countryside, a public garden or a sports venue
  • Pubs and bars must close. They can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant, which means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal. They may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal
  • Schools and universities remain open
  • Places of worship remain open, but household mixing is not permitted
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees (15 and 30 respectively). However, wedding receptions are not allowed
  • Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors. These will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with), or for youth or disability sport
  • You should try to avoid travelling outside the very high alert level area you are in or entering a very high alert level area, other than for things like work, education or youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if you are travelling through as part of a longer journey
  • You should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if you are resident in a very high alert level area, or avoid staying overnight in a very high alert level area if you are resident elsewhere

You must:

Wear a face covering in those areas where it is mandated, such as: 

  • Public transport
  • Taxis & private hire vehicles
  • Transport hubs
  • Shops
  • Shopping centres
  • Supermarkets
  • Auction houses
  • Premises providing hospitality e.g. bars, pubs, restaurants etc. except when seated at a table to eat or drink.

You should continue to:

  • Follow social distancing rules
  • Work from home where you can effectively do so
  • Travel to venues or amenities that are open, for work or to access education, but aim to reduce the number of journeys you make

This is the baseline in very high alert level areas. The government will also seek to agree additional interventions in consultation with local authorities, in order to drive down transmission of the virus. These could include the following options:

  • Restrictions preventing the sale of alcohol in hospitality or closing all hospitality (except takeaway and delivery)
  • Closing indoor and outdoor entertainment venues and tourist attractions
  • Closing venues such as leisure centres and gyms (while ensuring provision remains available for elite athletes, youth and disabled sport and physical activity)
  • Closing public buildings, such as libraries and community centres (while ensuring provision remains available for youth and childcare activities and support groups)
  • Closing personal care and close contact services or prohibiting the highest-risk activities
  • Closing performing arts venues for the purposes of performing to audiences

We’ve taken these latest government guidelines from October 2020 – when this guide was written. Depending on the date and time when you’re reading this, there may be some updates, so please do check the latest government site and their postcode checker for local restrictions.

A lot to take in, isn’t it? We all hope to see things get better sooner with restrictions easing, but with no crystal ball to tell us if, or when another lockdown is due, we do our best to carry on, work and support one another as well as the economy. 

So with that in mind, for those of us who are needed in work, employers and businesses need to make sure workplaces are COVID-secure. Read on for our ideas on how to create a safe office set-up.

Coronavirus: The facts

The ‘hands, face and space’ mantra encompasses three steps we all need to take in order to reduce transmission of the virus – wash our hands, wear a face mask and keep two metres between ourselves and others. Only by all of us working together and actually doing these things, will we (hopefully) see a return to life as we once knew.

How is COVID-19 spread?

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), “current evidence suggests that COVID-19 can spread between people through direct, indirect (through contaminated objects or surfaces), or close contact with infected people via mouth and nose secretions. These include saliva, respiratory secretions or secretion droplets. These are released from the mouth or nose when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings, for example. People who are in close contact (within 1 metre) with an infected person can catch COVID-19 when those infectious droplets get into their mouth, nose or eyes.”

Washing hands

Washing hands regularly and for 20 seconds is one of the most effective ways to help stop the spread of viruses and germs, as well as carrying and using hand sanitiser frequently. Coronavirus is an ‘enveloped virus’, meaning it has a protective outer layer from water in your respiratory droplets when you cough or sneeze. The virus’s layer is sticky, making it very effective at sticking to your hands, which helps it achieve its goal of infecting you if you touch your mouth, nose or eyes. Soap molecules are similar to the ones on the outer layer of the virus, and so they disrupt the virus’s layer, dissolving it in running water and killing the virus. 

Source on the science here at: Science Focus.

Face coverings

When social distancing (standing one metre or more away) is not possible, wearing a face mask is an important and incredibly easy measure you can take to protect others. As we’ve covered above in the Tier rules, the UK government also requires you to wear a face mask or covering in certain public places, where people are especially confined, such as in shops. There are exemptions that are listed on the government face coverings guidelines.

Social distancing

The rule of six (no meeting up or socialising in groups more than six), is there to help control social distancing. Social distancing at least two metres apart is key in helping control the spread of the virus because this distance makes it incredibly hard for an infected person to pass the virus on. COVID-19 gets into us when we touch contaminated surfaces or are in close proximity to infected people, where droplets from coughs and sneezes – as well as any touching – can pass on into our bodies through our mouths, noses and eyes. 

Social distancing for offices: Making offices COVID-secure

Whether it’s an office for the heroic key workers, a breakout area for the hard-working retail staff, or any office for COVID-secure businesses – where working from home is difficult or unfeasible – make them safe, comfortable and welcoming for your deserving staff.

Breakout areas for social distancing

When it comes to keeping employees safe and distanced from one another, a breakout area can work well.

Use highly visible signage to guide employees to designated seating arrangements, for instance, use green tick symbols to show which seats are usable, or for a quirkier way, place teddy bears on seats or parts of couches that are off limits. 

Place protective screens and dividers between desks and on long tables to add an extra level of protection. And of course, don’t forget those hand sanitisers and antibacterial wipes.

Distant desking 

Whatever desking system you have set up, there are ways to make it more COVID-secure. For benching systems, these can benefit from protective screens in the centre as well as only placing appropriately distanced seats under the desks or tables.  

If there is enough space, or even a separate room, you may wish to break up staff or departments by placing individual desks too, so employees can have their own workstations or have a mix of bench desks and individual ones. Consider placing mobile screens to separate desks and departments.

Keeping staff rooms and canteens safe

To help reduce the number of people gathering in certain areas, create order by having clear posters and signs indicating rules. Back these up with emails and into policies. 

You could also have a whiteboard outside of staff rooms, where each person marks who has entered via a tally to prevent others walking in at the time of full occupancy. So, for example, if the limit is three people, if everyone marks down before entering the room, anyone else walking by can clearly see if it’s full or not. These simple layouts and procedures will help reassure your staff as well keep them safer.

Again, where there are dining tables, coffee tables and canteen chairs, simply mark crosses with tape on seats that are out of use. Use protective screens to create COVID-secure barriers between people. 

Place mobile hand sanitiser stations around for instant access and to keep viruses and germs at bay. 

Meeting rooms and pods

Consider re-evaluating your meeting protocols, can they be done more socially distanced? Can they be reduced, and can they be more productive

Office and meeting pods could be the way forward for your business, as they provide clearly defined areas for workers to separate. Cell pods are also ideal for keeping employees extra safe from contamination, thanks to the fully enclosed glass pods.  

Allermuir CellPod

Toilet and hygiene facilities

It should go without saying, but it is essential that you have a well-organised cleaning rota and plenty of toiletries, ensuring everyone is catered for. Keep on top of replenishing items, as this is vital. 

Store away plenty of antibacterial wipes, hand sanitisers, toilet rolls, bottles of handwash and bars of soap etc. 

Hand sanitising stations conveniently placed around can also help keep your business more COVID-secure. 

Social distancing for the hospitality industry

For bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants, social distancing is vital, yet not always so easy. To help keep you from trouble, avoid chaotic customer gatherings and prevent closures and more curfews, here are some ways in which to control footfall and make premises more COVID-secure.

Set capacity limits

You need to seriously measure how many people can be in your building that’s safe for social distancing and moveability. Don’t flippantly guess, put in some time before you open or reopen to work out how many can be seated safely, taking into account the rules on group numbers. 

A little adjustment may need to happen. If there’s enough space, you may need to move tables further apart or if you have a big establishment already, a few more tables could be added to help with catering. If you’re a cosy bistro, you have to seriously consider capacity. 

The easiest and most sensible way to control this is to only take bookings. And if bookings are few, make sure you’re vigilant with counting any visitors and use footfall counters. 

Table service

Only offering table service is another good way to help control customers gathering with clearly marked floor signs to designate socially distanced queues for toilets etc. Encourage people to use your app for ordering if you have one, promote this where you can.

Face coverings

Currently, the government mandates face coverings should be worn in hospitality venues, only to be taken off when seated at a table to eat or drink. You should set out clear rules yourself, put up clear signs and posters to show this to remind customers or potential ones. Staff should wear face shields or face coverings as well as having access to hand sanitisers at the bar. 

Hygiene

Again, hand sanitisers around the bar area for staff will not only reassure them and keep them frequently germ-free, but your customers will be reassured too. Make sure your toilets are catered for all, don’t leave feminine hygiene behind when making sure your venue is COVID-secure. Always replenish essential supplies, empty sanitary bins and especially if your venue is small, mark out floors with social distancing signs to help order any queues.

Food service and takeaway

Share and promote your food hygiene rating to reassure customers and make sure you are up to date and always vigilant.  

Depending on the latest government guidelines, you’ll need to make sure you’re able to remain open. Currently, if you’re in a ‘very high’ alert level area, pubs and bars must close – they can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant, which means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal. They may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal.

A curfew is in place currently (this guide was written in October 2020, so please do check the government website), where certain businesses are required to ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and must close between 10pm and 5am. Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm, as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through.

Back offices

For guidance on how to set up safer offices, see our social distancing for offices section above.

Social distancing for the retail industry

Whether you’re a big-chain supermarket or a small, independent retail shop, there are a number of ways to help with social distancing for your customers.

Capacity and counting

Due to many retail venues being quite big with many floors, shelves in the way and numerous departments, it can be harder to monitor and observe headcounts. That’s why it’s a good idea to delegate or hire staff to count footfall at the door or invest in some footfall counters.

Floor stamps and signage

Many retailers are marking out floors with stamps, crosses and lines to create more order and to guide customers for queues; even guiding one-way systems. These can work especially well for places that do get a lot of footfall daily. If capacity is full, make sure the outside of the premises is marked well for socially distanced queues.

Hygiene and handling goods

Make sure there are clear signs for toilets and well-marked floors to control queues. If you weren’t already, you need to be stricter and way more vigilant when it comes to replenishing toiletries and make sure you cater for feminine hygiene.

Especially for clothes shops, where customers handle and touch clothes or want to try outfits on, consider putting up clear posters advising people to minimise touches and if you are allowing people to try things on, make sure changing room staff are wiping and spraying handled goods with sanitisers and antibacterial wipes frequently and signpost this to reassure customers.

Place mobile hand sanitiser dispensers around shop floors for easier access and better hygiene.

Cashiers and payment areas

Signpost and remind customers to use contactless payment wherever they can. When it comes to tills and cashier desks, consider placing protective screens for extra protection.

Always have hand sanitiser available so staff can keep on top of their hygiene, especially when handling a lot of goods touched by many daily. 

Again, use hand sanitising sprays and antibacterial wipes to keep areas clean; the sprays can be used for returns or on goods that customers have changed their mind about. 

Back offices and staff rooms

For guidance on how to set up safer offices and staff rooms, see our social distancing for offices section above.

Social distancing in schools

The school day is unlike any other, with timetables, dinner times and lessons to be considered. Maintaining social distancing in schools is no easy feat, but there are some helpful and useful guides you can follow to help create more order.

The government advises:

  • To arrange classrooms with forward-facing desks 
  • Staff should maintain social distancing between each other and their pupils as much as possible
  • When grouping children, avoid contact between groups

Canteens

When it comes to canteens, it’s a good idea to reorganise the queuing system, you could opt for floor stamps like many retail shops have to signpost appropriate distancing. Also, for canteen tables it would be wise to have markers or signs to help break out groups on tables. Have some canteen seats off limits with seat signs. Consider setting up outdoor areas for even better ventilation.

Provide social distancing protective screens

For the ICT rooms or smaller areas where social distancing is more difficult, provide social distancing protective screens.

Keep toilets well stocked

For toilets, just like you should be checking already, make sure they are well stocked and have plenty ready in storage. This includes toilet paper, hand wash and hand sanitiser. It’s also a good idea to provide sanitary products for your female students and staff.

Make more space in classrooms

Make sure classrooms are adapted appropriately. Again this may be difficult but every little helps. If you have enough room and space, rejig the seating and use whatever you have in storage e.g. add some beanbags for extra seating space.

Reorganise lockers

It may be worthwhile reorganising lockers and breaking up units to help spread them out to help with those chaotic transitions between classes.

Also see our useful article we did on preparing for schools reopening.

Back offices and staff rooms

For guidance on how to set up safer offices and staff rooms, see our social distancing for offices section above.

Post-COVID-19 working world

If there’s one thing this unprecedented pandemic has taught us, it’s that when we are forced into testing and tough times, we have to adapt whether that’s entire countries, towns, communities or businesses. We adapt in order to survive. Tragically, lives have been lost, as well as jobs, businesses and opportunities. As we shift into a post-COVID-19 world, we have to maintain a hard balancing act to stabilise the economy, whilst protecting our public health.

That’s why it’s vital everybody pulls together and carries on being more vigilant on both personal hygiene and office hygiene. The shape of the office space is changing, and it’s changing for the better. With more breakout areas, office pods, protective screens, office dividers, mobile hand sanitising stations and better guided office layouts, employers are adapting to help keep employees safer.

A safer, more dynamic and caring workplace is being created, one in which helps stop the flow of viruses… but not the office banter.

DBI Furniture Solutions

These adaptations and changes are introducing new ways of collaboration, holding productive meetings, improving mental wellness and are helping employers reintroduce staff back into the office safely, helping them break away from the detrimental effects of isolation and to continue earning a living. 

More people will be working from home as companies have had to adapt, but this isn’t always feasible or easy for many and so the office environment will become safer and more hygienic as employers have to update. A safer, more dynamic and caring workplace is being created, one in which helps stop the flow of viruses… but not the office banter.

Productivity

11 ways to have productive meetings

Making meetings more productive has become the holy grail in work culture. How many times have you come out of a meeting and thought ‘this could have been an email?’ What a post-COVID world has taught us is that there is a way to make meetings work even when we’re not all together. And with more virtual meetings taking place – from having to work from home or remotely – it has us compiling a list of the best, simple ways to have more productive meetings.

 

1. Review your meeting calls

Start by reviewing the criteria you have that calls for a meeting. You may have come to learn that some things can be organised and resolved by simple emails or a quickfire chat in the office or a WhatsApp group.

 

2. Use group chats

When it comes to remote working or working from home, group messaging apps (like the popular WhatsApp) have brought an easier way to get things done for companies. Whether you have staff who move around such as travelling to clients etc. a group chat can be a quicker and more productive way to keep everyone involved or to host a meeting.

 

3. Make them virtual

Virtual meetings are one of the most helpful ways to carry out meetings for remote workers. As a company, try sticking to one technology to keep it simple and so that everyone knows what to download, it could be Zoom, or it could be Google Meet. You don’t have to worry about costs with so many free resources.

 

4. Make them more specific

Only host meetings for those involved. This may work for you but not for others. If you’re a company whose team works closely together or a smaller business, whole-staff meetings may be the way. But for bigger companies or for tasks that are more specific, it may be better to keep them for only those involved. That way, they can be shorter and more productive and team members can simply fill others in with quick chats.

 

5. Create agendas and share in advance

Create quick agendas to help meetings be more productive so everyone is prepared and can bring their A game. This can help keep meetings free from awkward pauses or can help employees bring more thought-out ideas to the table.

 

6. Take mini minutes

Taking minutes can often leave one employee pressured to keep up or could cause them to fall behind as they may struggle to stay engaged. Minute taking is a productive way to summarise and keep everyone informed to avoid any key info being missed. Consider alternating the role of minute taker and reassure employees that notes should be kept short and sweet. 

 

7. Do standing and walking meetings

For those quicker meetings that don’t need a notebook, have employees stretch their legs and go for walks or encourage them to stand for more collaborative approaches. Being a bit more active and allowing your staff to move can re-energize them and spark ideas.

 

8. Productive presenting

If you need to make presentations, there are so many quick and free resources to help you bring your ideas to life and get the key facts and stats across. Download design apps or use websites to create simple presentations that can save time and prevent PowerPoint boredom.

 

9. Use gadgets

With so many great gadgets at our beck and call, it’s now easier than ever to speed up meetings and to make them more productive. It’s worth investing in some key technological items that can help meetings run smoother. Consider your budget and how suited some are to your company. For instance, if you’re a smaller team, you may have tablets for meetings for employees to interact with documents or to make it easier to view them. You don’t even have to break the bank as you could use voice recorders to help with retention (every smartphone has one).

 

 

10. Assign roles

An idea to help meetings run efficiently could be to assign roles. For instance, having an assigned summariser or minute taker takes care of the wrap-up of meetings. Designating someone who is good with technology to take charge of all the tech admin can also help meetings run more smoothly.  

 

11. Create a template

This doesn’t have to only mean creating presentation templates. It can be a good idea to create a general template for how you run meetings in your business. Linking in with assigning roles, you could hand out a template to all staff to show how all meetings should run so everyone knows what is expected of them. This could look something like a step-by-step outline to make them less time-wasting e.g. Meetings > Held in conference room 1 > Matt to set up projector > Lorna to hand out meeting notebooks and pens > Meeting host begins > Q&A from the rest of the team > Karen to summarise. 

 

Space Planning

Preparing for schools reopening

As of recently, the government has confirmed that schools will be reopening for the autumn term and has asked schools to prepare for all pupils to return full-time, and that includes nursery, too. What is also asked is that schools comply with health and safety laws, assessing risks and putting in place proportionate control measures. It’s vital that schools review their health and safety risk assessments and adapt and consider extra measures reacting to the current climate.

 

Protective measures for schools

 

The government has set out some extra, adapted measures to those already in place. The protective measures include:

  • More thorough hand and respiratory hygiene
  • Enhanced cleaning protocol
  • An active engagement with NHS Test and Trace
  • Requiring those who are ill to stay at home
  • Implement social distancing and serious efforts to reduce contact wherever possible

 

Social distancing in schools


When it comes to one of the main requirements – that has been drilled into us since the outbreak – social distancing is a tough one to manage when working in a school. The government understands this and it has given some pointers:

 

  • Arrange classrooms with forward-facing desks
  • Staff should maintain social distancing between each other and their pupils as much as possible
  • When grouping children, avoid contact between groups

 

Whilst it’s going to be a difficult protocol to maintain, the government takes this into account but stresses the importance of social distancing and to implement it wherever possible.

 

Adapting the school environment around coronavirus

 

The idea of using canteens, toilets and kitchens in the school environment, brings a chaotic scene to the mind. Hundreds of children will be in and out daily, so what can you do to help the school environment adapt?

 

Breakout areas

Consider more breakout areas around school. Many schools have already implemented these for intervention and guided reading groups but for the extra measures to consider, this will further help reduce contacts. There are many space-efficient tables to opt for. If this proves tricky, many intervention teachers take groups to outdoor areas too.

 

Have some canteen seats off limits

When it comes to canteens, it’s a good idea to reorganise the queuing system, you could opt for floor stamps like many retail shops have to signpost appropriate distancing. Also, for canteen tables it would be wise to have markers or signs to help break out groups on tables. Have some canteen seats off limits with seat signs. Consider setting up outdoor areas for even better ventilation.

 

Provide social distancing protective screens

For the ICT rooms or smaller areas where social distancing is more difficult, provide social distancing protective screens.

 

Keep toilets well stocked

For toilets, just like you should be checking already, make sure they are well stocked and have plenty ready in storage. This includes toilet paper, hand wash and hand sanitiser. It’s also a good idea to provide sanitary products for your female students and staff.

 

Make more space in classrooms

Make sure classrooms are adapted appropriately. Again this may be difficult but every little helps. If you have enough room and space, rejig the seating and use whatever you have in storage e.g. add some beanbags for extra seating space.

 

Reorganise lockers

It may be worthwhile reorganising lockers and breaking up units to help spread them out to help with those chaotic transitions between classes.

 

Hygiene in school

When it comes to thinking about long-term virus protection, consider these tips to help maintain hygiene in all school areas:

 

  • Make sure antibacterial wipes and hand sanitisers are available in classrooms, breakout areas and canteens. Wipe down sides and equipment before and after use. Don’t forget labs and chemistry equipment as well as desks and chairs

  • Give wipes and hand sanitiser to each student for their desk and encourage regular cleaning throughout the day

  • Review your cleaning protocol and make sure they are up-to-date with government guidelines

  • In canteen areas, make sure kitchen staff are extra protected. If they aren’t already, consider wearing different gloves when cleaning down and serving food. Also, consider face visors as well as face masks

  • Encourage pupils and parents to bring in their own hand sanitiser and face masks but it’s best to provide disposable masks on premises 

 

Workplace

5 post-COVID-19 office etiquette rules everyone should follow

As the world starts to open back up again, more and more people are returning to their place of work after being furloughed or working from home. While some will be craving a kind of normality, others will be anxious about returning to a space they don’t have full control over. 

That’s where post-COVID-19 office etiquette comes into play. It’s up to everyone in the office – even those who feel more comfortable – to ensure that everyone is as safe as possible. 

  1. Follow the rules

There’s a reason the phrase ‘the new normal’ is being bandied about so much. A lot of rules and procedures have suddenly been put into place. Whether it’s keeping two metres or wearing a mask, there will be different rules for different places, but it’s important that you follow whatever is in place. For the protection of yourself and of others. Remember that everyone is just trying to get back to some resemblance of normal, there’s just a few new changes happening. 

  1. Look after yourself

On top of whatever guidelines are in place, you might want to take extra precautions to protect yourself. While masks may not be mandatory in offices, you may want to wear one in addition to social distancing and handwashing measures. You may also want to wear gloves or have your own cleaning supplies from home, or even your own cutlery and plates. Whatever helps you feel more comfortable about returning to your place of work. Make sure you speak to your manager if something is troubling you or there is something you want to do personally.

  1. Look after your space

While we know that we can pick up COVID-19 from surfaces, we don’t know for certain how long the virus lives outside the body on those surfaces. Still, it’s better safe than sorry. Chances are your place of work has implemented a ‘keep your station clean’ policy in addition to regular professional cleanings. 

Ensure that each desk has its own cleaning supplies, including sprays, kitchen towel or cloths, and anti-bacterial wipes. Everyone should be wiping down their desk and equipment at the start of the day when they get in, and before they leave the office at the end of their day, along with any cleanings they feel necessary throughout. 

If each person is responsible for their own space, the task of cleaning becomes less overwhelming and much easier to do. 

  1. Clean up after yourself

In every office and workspace there will be communal areas used by multiple people and/or businesses. This is an area that might be a source of anxiety for a lot of people; while we can control our own actions, communal areas mean we are relying on the sensibility of others. Unfortunately there is very little that can be done other than making the rules as clear as possible, and make sure that you’re following them to a tee. 

If you use the kitchen, wipe down the surface that you use and touch before and after. This could include cupboard doors, taps, microwave buttons and light switches. All it needs is a spray and cloth or an anti-bac wipe and you’ve done your bit to protect yourself and others in seconds. 

  1. Be respectful

Someone else’s ‘new normal’ might not be yours. A person in your office may come in every day wearing a mask and gloves with enough hand sanitiser to open a shop, but that’s up to them. If these are the measures that they need to follow in order to feel safe, then that is their business. If there’s anything that the post-COVID-19 office should be – in addition to clean – it’s judgement-free. 

We’re all just trying to find our way in this strange new world, and people will feel more comfortable than others. This includes socialising, too. While you may be desperate to have a team meal and a drink, someone may not be comfortable with the idea of going to a crowded restaurant just yet. As the phrase goes, you do you. 

This time is bound to be tricky, but if everyone looks after themselves and tries to be a little more mindful of others, we can all make offices a little bit safer. Just remember to follow the guidelines, keep your two metres from others and don’t break personal boundaries. Oh, and wash your hands. 

Productivity, Workplace

How to manage your time effectively

Our relationships with time can be up and down. It’s either on our side or working against us. One major factor that can control this, is proper time management. Once you’ve cracked how to manage your time effectively, you’ll be instantly less stressful, projects will be done more efficiently, and you’ll be more at ease with managing your professional and personal time, and your workload.

Working from home

One area where managing time is of great importance is when having to work from home. Whether you have a big family, housemates, a partner or you’re sick but have your laptop on the couch, working from home has its challenges and if you don’t have your time managed well, it can have a serious knock-on effect for poor productivity and mental health.

Time management tips for work

  • Have a dedicated workspace set up wherever you are, just for you and your work
  • Make sure your chair is comfortable and good for posture
  • Use diaries and calendars, whether printed or digital
  • If you’re working on team projects, use apps like Google Drive to easily share and edit work
  • Get that to-do list written daily and checked off
  • If you need to do chores around the house, delegate tasks in the household and use those calendars, diaries and to-do lists for others too so you’re not left with all the tasks
  • Set alarms and reminders on your phone

How to manage time better

Your to-do list is your saviour, and really such a simple technique that shouldn’t be forgotten. As soon as you get up, write or type up a to-do list for that day. You could even start the week with a main to-do list and then break it up daily. Have those green highlighters at the ready to check off every item. Did you know that seeing more green lines or ticks (which is a calming colour) will have you instantly feeling better because you know you’re keeping on top of tasks?

Use calendars on your phone or your computer/email to slot in tasks, chores or work projects. It could be those little organisation tasks to help keep on top of things like sorting your emails or going through meal plans to make use of your food and to reduce food waste.

Apps for better time management

  • FabulousThis app focuses on setting and organising healthy routines and rituals into your days
  • EvernoteThis app allows you to take notes anywhere, to find information faster and to share ideas. Make meeting notes, note web pages, projects and to-do lists
  • RescueTime – Blocks social media, YouTube, news etc. from taking over your attention for set periods of time
  • todoistLets you keep track of everything in one place to keep on top of things and you can add to your to-do lists anytime, anywhere, on any device – even offline
  • Microsoft To Do  – Makes it easy to plan your days and manage time as you can have a personalised daily planner with suggested tasks, share and assign tasks with friends, family and colleagues. You can also add notes to any task and attach files to tasks
Productivity, Workplace

8 morning habits to set you up for a productive day

There are typically two types of people in the world: the morning person and the one who has several alarms set every 15 minutes. Whichever group you fall into, we have a helpful guide on how to be more productive in the morning right here to kickstart your day. Not only will this encourage better habits and a healthier routine, you’ll see knock-on benefits throughout your lifestyle, organisation, productivity and house management.

Productivity, Workplace

Your ultimate guide to working from home

Whether you’re part of a company or self-employed, many of us will have to work from home at some point in our careers. While it may sound like the ideal place to set up shop, being at home and trying to graft can be challenging! Don’t worry though, we’re here to help you navigate this time with our ultimate guide to working from home. Everything you need to know is right here. 

Awareness, Workplace

How to deal with pregnancy at work

Pregnancy is a wonderful time in a person’s life. But it is also one that has to be fitted in around other aspects of their life, one of the main ones being work. As we spend so much time at the office, it’s essential that pregnant women at work have a suitable environment that makes their life as easy and comfortable as possible. Employers have a responsibility to ensure that the workplace is safe and comfortable for the mother-to-be and developing child. How aware are you on how to deal with pregnancy at work and what needs to be in place in the office? Don’t get caught out and let our guide take you through the legalities and helpful ways to make your office fitting for working mums.

What are pregnant employees’ rights?

In the UK, pregnant employees have four main legal rights:

  • Maternity leave
  • Maternity pay/allowance
  • Paid time off for antenatal care
  • Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal

When should you be informed about a pregnancy from your employees?

Employers must be told about pregnancies from employees at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week the baby is due. If employees didn’t know in time, they must tell as soon as possible.

Pregnant employees must also tell employers when they want to start their Statutory Maternity Leave and Statutory Maternity Pay.</p>

How long can mothers take for maternity leave?

  • All pregnant employees get Statutory Maternity Leave which is 52 weeks, made up of: ordinary maternity leave (first 26 weeks) and additional maternity leave (final 26 weeks)
  • Employees don’t have to take on the full 52 weeks but it’s mandatory for employees to take two weeks’ leave after the baby is born or if working in a factory, four weeks must be taken
  • Employees may be entitled to take some of their leave as Shared Parental Leave
  • Fathers or partners are entitled to one or two weeks of paternity leave even if adopting a child, if qualified. To be qualified, they have to have had the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date or by the time they have matched with a child for adoption
  • You can offer extra leave if you have a company maternity scheme but make sure all maternity leave and maternity pay policies are available for staff to view

What Maternity Pay and Paternity Pay are employees entitled to?

  • Statutory Maternity Pay is paid for up to 39 weeks and employees receive 90% of their average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first six weeks. Then it will be £148.68 or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the continual 33 weeks.
  • You can offer extra maternity pay if you have a company maternity scheme but make sure all maternity leave and maternity pay policies are available for staff to view
  • If fathers or partners qualify for Paternity Leave, Statutory Paternity Pay is likely to coincide with Paternity Leave and to qualify for pay, employees have to keep working for their employer up to the date of birth and be earning an average of at least £118 a week The rate of pay is the same for both Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Maternity Pay

How much time off can be given for antenatal care?

  • ‘Antenatal care’ covers medical appointments, antenatal classes, parenting classes, if recommended by doctors or midwives
  • Once employees have informed their employers of their pregnancy, employers must give time off for antenatal care whilst paying their normal rate for the time off 
  • Partners or fathers have the right to unpaid time off work to attend two antenatal appointments
  • Employees can’t take time off for any antenatal appointments until they’ve told their employer about their pregnancy

What are the health and safety requirements for pregnant employees?

  • A risk assessment will need to be carried out for a pregnant employee and their baby as soon as an employer has been informed of the pregnancy
  • The risk assessment should assess the possible risks caused by heavy lifting or carrying, standing or sitting for long periods of time without adequate breaks, long working hours or exposure to toxic substances
  • If there are any of these risks, employers need to take reasonable steps to remove the risks. For instance, sit to stand desks could be put in place to allow employees to work on tasks from different positions, improving comfort and posture 
  • If risks cannot be removed, then employers should suspend pregnant employees on full pay by offering alternative work 

What if employees have pregnancy-related illnesses?

  • If an employee is off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks before the baby is due, Maternity Leave and Statutory Maternity Pay will start automatically no matter what has been previously agreed
  • If an employee has to take work off due to a pregnancy-related illness before the four weeks run-up to when the baby is due, then Statutory Sick Pay can be claimed. Maternity Pay may be affected depending on the circumstances

What happens for employees if a baby dies?

  • Employees will still qualify for leave or pay if the baby: is stillborn after the start of the 24th week of pregnancy or if the baby dies after being born

Employees rights after giving birth

What rights are in place once employees have given birth?

  • If the baby is born early, then leave begins the day after the birth of the baby. Employees must provide birth certificates or a document signed by a doctor or midwife that confirms the date of birth. If babies are born prematurely (15 weeks or more before the due date), then employers need to calculate the Statutory Maternity Pay  
  • New risk assessments are to be carried out when employees are back in work to accommodate breastfeeding (anchor link?)
  • Fathers or partners can take paternity leave (providing they have qualified), from the day the baby is born, from the day a child is placed with them for adoption or from a date after the birth or adoption that is agreed in advance between employee and employer

How should offices accommodate breastfeeding?

  • New mothers when returning to work have certain rights, including breastfeeding rights. A new risk assessment is needed to be done which looks out for the same health and safety risks from the assessment done when an employee first informs an employer they are pregnant
  • Risks to be assessed are making sure still that there’s no heavy lifting or carrying, long working hours, exposure to toxic substances or sitting for long periods of time. Added to this, is making sure there is space for mums who are breastfeeding to lie down and rest if they need to
  • Breastfeeding mums at work can also express milk at work and employers should provide a suitable private space for breastfeeding employees. Guidelines are to make sure a clean and comfortable room is provided with a lockable door (not a toilet). A pregnancy office chair could be provided
  • Fridges to store breast milk are encouraged
  • If it works best, breastfeeding employees can ask to change hours or their working pattern to fit around their breastfeeding and/or milk expressing. Shared parental leave can also be factored in

Why it is good business to encourage and support breastfeeding for employees:

  • Supporting breastfeeding for employees will help for staff retention and it can mean fewer absences as breastfed babies are generally sick less often than formula-fed babies. This means parents will take fewer days off to care for a sick baby
  • Parents of breastfed babies have ⅓ of the absences of parents of formula-fed babies
  • Retention rates are increased when accommodating breastfeeding mums as employers are reducing training and recruitment costs as they can keep female talent.
  • Supported mothers are more likely to return to work and not look elsewhere than unsupported mothers in the workplace. Productivity and loyalty are both significantly increased when accommodating breastfeeding for working mothers
  • Accommodating breastfeeding in the workplace is a simple and productive business decision

Source: Maternity Action.

How can offices accommodate breastfeeding and working mums?

  • Employers could consider introducing a breastfeeding policy to outline best practice for how employees can make requests which could be included in maternity policies
  • All that is needed for an office to accommodate breastfeeding and milk expressing is a separate, private room with a lockable door, giving enough space for a mother to lie and rest
  • In order for your office to be the most comfortable and supportive for working mums is to make sure comfortable, suitable seating is available. The chairs you choose can be cost-effective as they can be a suitable addition that can act as either visitor chairs or colleague chairs for those out-of-the-room little catch-ups. They don’t have to take up too much room either. Here are some top picks for multi-purpose office chairs

What employers are NOT allowed to do related to working parents:

  • Discriminate against anyone because of pregnancy
  • Change a pregnant employee’s contract terms or conditions without agreement. If employers do this, they are in breach of contract
  • Keep pregnant employees in work if risks identified by assessments have not been removed
  • Discriminate against breastfeeding employees

As a business owner, you know you have to evolve in order to remain successful and companies are realising that accommodating their staff is beneficial for all. Working mums shouldn’t be seen as a hindrance for being able to have the ability to bring life into the world. Make sure to keep up-to-date and refresh your office once in a while. Being prepared with a fitting environment for pregnant employees to show your investment and commitment is worthwhile as employees will show even more loyalty.

 

Data on maternity and parental rights in the workplace has been taken from the UK Government’s official website

Workplace

How to encourage good desk etiquette

Your desk is your haven when you’re at the office. It’s where you can work as you please without interference from anyone else. But while it may be your space, it’s mindful to remember that what you do at your desk can potentially impact those around you, especially if you work in an open plan office.  There is such a thing as desk etiquette, and it’s important that you make an effort to follow it. Here’s how.

1. No smelly foods

Rule number one of desk etiquette: be very mindful about what you eat at your desk. Nothing will irritate your colleagues more than you eating a very smelly meal at your desk. We understand that when midday rolls around it’s nice to have something to look forward to at lunch and, of course, you’re perfectly entitled to eat whatever you wish. But have a think about how others might feel when you’re boxing up last night’s leftovers. 

Fish, cabbage, eggs, fast food, excessive garlic and onions, spices and particularly smelly cheeses are foods you need to keep in your own kitchen, not in the office.

2. Tidy as you go

Keeping clutter at a minimum is essential to productivity. Tidy desk, tidy mind. A workstation that is tidy and well-organised can also boost your mood. So if you’re one to find clutter elsewhere in the office distracting, do your part for everyone else and keep your own desk tidy. A desk with your own personal drawers is best. It’s much easier to put something away once you’re finished with it or try not to have too many “bits” out at once.

3. Tidy at the end of the day

Take a little bit of time at the end of your working day to pack away any supplies that have made their way out of their drawers. It’ll only take you a few extra minutes and you’ll feel a sense of pride leaving behind a tidy desk and when you come in the next day you can get straight into work and not worry about finding the workspace underneath it.

4. Bring your own stationery

When you work in an office, stationery is the tool of your trade. Your necessities for getting tasks done. So rather than spending your valuable time searching store cupboards and drawers for pens and sticky notes, make sure your own desk is fully stocked up. Don’t go over the top – chances are you don’t need a protractor – pens, highlighters and paper clips are a good place to start.

And always have spares stored in your desk. It’s always good to be prepared incase a pencil breaks, a pen runs out of ink or a notebook becomes full.

5. Keep cutlery clean

We all like a brew at our desk to help keep productivity flowing, but your desk mates won’t appreciate a pile of used cups around your computer. Your office may have its own specific rules when it comes to dishes, but it’s good practice to clean up after yourself whenever you’re done with it. Your colleagues won’t be happy if they go for a coffee break but can’t find any mugs.

6. Be quiet and considerate

There’s nothing wrong with chatting with your colleagues, and if you work in an open plan office then it’s unavoidable. But keep in mind that loud conversations could prove distracting and annoying. Ultimate desk etiquette suggests that you should keep personal conversations away from your desk, whether you need to step out for a phone call or save catching up with your coworkers til lunch time. Work conversations are different; some may require you to be at your desk and work calls need to be taken there, but if the matter is private try to find a meeting room so you don’t disturb those around you.