Returning To Work


Following the coronavirus lockdown, governments and local health authorities are reviewing and recommending new measures to allow businesses to be able to start opening their doors again.

This brochure explains how to prepare, plan and implement any changes you may need in order to adhere to social distancing measures and other advice from the government or health authorities.

Returning to work

Building Preparation

Building Preparation

HVAC Systems

Although the transmission of the virus is mainly through respiratory droplets generated by coughing, sneezing and through contact with contaminated surfaces, there have been no special cleaning measures recommended for ventilation and cooling systems.

However, where any systems have been idle or running at a reduced load it is best practice for these to be serviced and cleaned prior to reoccupation.

Building Preparation

Fire Systems

Ensure all fire detection and alarm systems are fully functional, this includes testing of alarm call points. If your system has not been tested as frequently as usual, faults may have developed, so it is vital to ensure the system is fully functional. As a life support system any maintenance is classed as key work, and therefore your systems maintenance company will still be able to attend and complete any remedial works.

Building Preparation

Water Systems

During this time there are many possible situations that have the potential to occur in buildings and water systems i.e. stagnation, poor turnover, poor temperature control. These situations may cause outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease.

As a general principle, outlets on hot and cold water systems should be used at least once a week to maintain a degree of water flow and to minimise the chances of stagnation.

Building Preparation

When Lockdown is Lifted…

It is essential that when buildings reopen following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, that any water system is not simply put straight back into use. There is an increased risk when individuals start using water systems that have been stagnant for a period of time, which may lead to exposure of Legionella and other waterborne pathogens. During the period of shutdown, it would be sensible to formulate a recommissioning plan for each water system to allow safe start-up and provide assurance to users that it is safe.

Building Preparation

The recommissioning plans should include:

Evaporative cooling systems

existing procedures should exist for starting up and shutting down, these will need to be followed.

Simple water systems

e.g. mains fed with instantaneous / point of use water heaters flushed through with mains water (safe purge).

Larger water systems

e.g. cold water tanks and hot water generators. These systems will need to be cleaned, disinfected (chemical for cold water and thermal for hot water) with the systems flushed.

Recommissioned systems

The systems that are recommissioned need to be sampled 2-7 days post disinfection.

Building Preparation

Cleaning Procedures

With the risks posed by COVID-19 you must review if you need to make any changes to the scope of cleaning programs/schedules or any additional services.

Common contact points will need additional surface cleaning above that what was previously ‘normal’. This includes areas such as door handles, lift buttons, telephones or IT equipment.

Engage With Suppliers

Communicate with your suppliers to ensure you can maintain a suitable stock level of janitorial and cleaning materials to remain operational. Due to potential supply chain challenges, there may be delays in deliveries or changes in stock.

Where cleaning supplies are required, ensure you have a suitable stock level, and these can be supplied to you regularly.

Hand sanitiser (with an alcohol content 70% or more) should be available at all touch-points and desk areas.

Response Cleaning

You must also ensure you have a cleaning procedure in place if a staff member, visitor or contractor shows symptoms of COVID-19 whilst on site. Such areas should be isolated until cleaning takes place.

Speak with your supplier and ensure you have a comprehensive plan for emergence decontamination and ongoing preventive measures in place.

Returning to work

Prepare the Workforce

Returning to work


Following the preparation of the building, the next steps a business should take is to prepare the workforce for returning to work. You need to create a plan to decide who will return to work and when.

There is no set way to do this, but the following should be considered in the decision process:

The needs of the business itself in regards to who needs to return first e.g. managers first, employees second etc.

Returning to work


Any employees that are considered vulnerable or extremely vulnerable, including individuals they may live with.

Which employee groups are able to continue working at home and which need to return to work.

The plan should be documented, clear to follow and communicated to all employees. Employees who must continue to stay at home due to either being vulnerable, highly vulnerable, living with those who are classed as vulnerable or need to stay at home due to other COVID-19 factors should be supported to do so.

Returning to work

Manage Anxiety

Employees returning to the business will be returning to a new, unfamiliar world.

It is vital to ensure any new working practices, office layouts and expectations are discussed with all employees before they return to work.

Some may have concerns and need further reassurance that the new control measures are suitable and sufficient.

Returning to work

Control Access

To reduce the risks to your employees, you should consider limiting visitors and contractors to your sites/premises. A suggestion is to only allow business-critical visitors and contractors access.

These might include:

  • Those delivering or collecting goods in order for the business to function.
  • Contractors undertaking statutory repairs and services such as fire systems maintenance, LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998)
  • Thorough Examination and inspections.
    Contractors undertaking emergency maintenance works.

Additional control measures are:

  • Reconfiguration Of Lobby Areas For Social Distancing
  • Lobby areas should be reconfigured to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
  • People entering and exiting the premises must be able to do so without close or physical contact or if practicable separate entrance and exit points to staff to prevent cross-contamination.

For Public-Facing Employees :

  • Installing plexiglass shields / clear plastic shielding screens, as appropriate, at points of regular interaction with customers (these will need a regular cleaning and disinfecting program).
  • Regulating entry into the premises (such as a one-in, one-out policy).
  • Signage to control movement such as a one-way system and enhanced floor marking.


  • Drop off and collection points for deliveries with enhanced safety measures for staff who enter or work in this area, Additional measures to consider are a regular cleaning and disinfecting of equipment, use of protective gloves and no direct contact with drivers of delivery vehicles.

Returning to work

Social Distancing Plan

Social distancing is reducing day-to-day contact with other people as much as possible.

In the first instance, businesses and workplace should encourage and enable their employees to work at home wherever possible. This will not be the case for everyone and as an employer, you must ensure social distancing measures are followed in the workplace.

Within office environments you can include the following measures:

  • Decreasing density.
  • Designating a foot traffic plan e.g. one-way system.
  • Installing shields where appropriate e.g. at counters/reception desks.
  • Managing schedules by varying start and finish times.
  • Prohibiting shared use of small spaces.
  • Using technology e.g. video conferencing.
  • Minimising face-to-face meetings.
  • Specifying seating arrangements for employees.
  • Re-designing spaces e.g. alternate desk / chair use.
  • Adding panels between desks.
  • Enforcing stringent cleaning protocols for shared spaces.
  • Reducing the capacity of spaces e.g. removing some chairs from large conference rooms.

Social Distancing Measures:

  • Ensuring a minimum 2m distance between people.
  • Avoiding small and large gatherings (so where practicable meetings should take place virtually or over telephone systems).
  • Staggering breaks and work patterns if you have a large workforce so you are not crowding your workforce.
  • Specify seating/desk arrangements for staff to ensure minimum work distances are adhered to.
  • Use digital means for transferring paperwork such as invoices, delivery notes and programs instead of hard copies.
  • Use contactless payment methods such as contactless card terminals or pre-payment via online banking, rather than cash handling.

Returning to work

Reduce Touch Points

Maintaining high levels of hygiene at your businesses premises and by your staff will minimise the spread of COVID-19. You may need a deep clean of the premises prior to opening but most likely, and dependent on the nature of the business, regular deep cleans will need to be undertaken.

These Include:

  1. Considering low touch or no touch doors, switches and other fittings.
  2. Enforcing cleaning protocols to sanitise hands, disinfect door handles etc.
  3. Removing ‘high touch’ tools and equipment such as marker pens, remote controls etc.
  4. Putting disinfectant sprays and wipes in prominent areas throughout the business such as at entrances, exits, kitchen areas, offices, at points of customer interaction and drop off / collection points.
  5. Removing shared tools and equipment. Ensure staff have personal tools and equipment instead.
  6. Implement a clean desk and self-sanitising policy for staff, ensuring they are empowered to keep their own equipment clean.

Returning to work

Staff Hygiene

It is also important that staff keep high levels of personal hygiene to minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading. 

Returning to work

Respiratory Hygiene

Ensuring all sneezes, coughs or blows of the nose are caught in tissues that are disposed of, and hands washed immediately afterwards. The UK NHS refer to this as “Catch it. Bin it. Kill it”.

Thank You.

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Tel: 020 7935 5088