Hello, I’m Hollie Doyle and I’m Office Manager at Rhino Interiors Group. I’ve been at Rhino for 6 years in total and in my current role for three years. It fell to me to organize Rhino’s transition to agile working! In today’s blog I’ll tell you about how we tackled some of the important health & safety elements.
Getting to Grips With All The Advice
Last time I talked about how important it was to make sure Rhino’s agile policy should be founded on strong ethics - we would use these to test whether what we were asking staff to do was fair and reasonable. Everything would be done in order to promote the health, wellbeing and reassurance of staff.
Needless to say, health and safety had to be right at the centre of our thinking. Fortunately, there were a few resources to draw on by way of inspiration. Firstly, there are the government’s guidelines - this was pretty comprehensive!
I liked the idea of conducting an audit and the government’s format encouraged to think of the key aspects in a structured manner, as follows;
They also provide a nice simple template to capture your thinking as you go along.
Social Distancing and Behaviour At Work
Clearly, social distancing is an important requirement and a 2 metre gap is far from easy to maintain; we quickly realised that this was a design issue. We had to re-design the office from the perspective of an employee, thinking about all their contact points.
Obviously, the day begins with a journey, which will usually be via public transport (being right in the heart of the city), but might also be by car or on foot. We looked into incentives that might allow people to save money on parking, as that would give them total control of their personal space during the journey. That said, the most important measure was the flexibility of working hours to enable people to avoid rush hour. For most of the team, this was the most important factor.
Once in the building, people needed guidance on which routes to follow around the office. Fortunately supermarkets have been doing this for some weeks, so there were plenty of practical examples out there on how to approach this. That said, we didn’t want loads to black and yellow tape everywhere, so we brought in our design team to help think this through and execute it with a bit of style!
The ritual of the lunch break has had to change as well. We used to put out a lot of fruit and such items, but sharing is out for the foreseeable future, so that’s stopped for the time being. More fundamentally, we decided that people should no longer take lunch breaks together, because that would only create complications.
An End to Lengthy Meetings
Traditional meetings have been banned and many people would see that as a good thing! Let’s face it, we all know how easy it is to spend too much time sitting in them and they can be a drain on energy for everyone. The new Rhino meeting is likely to be short as we don’t want people to gather for more than 15 minutes. This means there’s an expectation that everyone comes prepared – there just isn’t time to read slowly through a document or presentation before figuring out what to say. It’s also vertical in many cases – rather than sitting down and getting comfortable, standing meetings keep the energy and focus higher. Layout and position of tables between participants helps people keep their distance without having to be self-conscious about it. In our design we don’t want to accentuate people’s natural worries and concerns. We do as many of the formal meetings as possible from home via Zoom, so face time in the office can be used for the more informal, creative and productive discussions.
When it came to protective equipment and fittings, some of my inspiration came from Rhino’s own range of return-to-work products. We knew that the entrance and exit were key points where staff would expect to be able to wash their hands, so sanitising is now very much part of the daily greeting and is destined to become part of everyone’s daily routine, I am sure.
Territorial considerations also came into play and we needed to consider how desks should not only be arranged, but also look aesthetically. We considered re-arrangements of the layout and inserting transparent perspex screens between the desks, which was a bit of re-assurance that was easy to install and didn’t have a negative impact on the overall look of the office. Of course, it was an easy decision to tell staff that they would be provided with masks for use during travel, in case anyone was worried about whether they would be able to get hold of them or running out of stock.
Overall, I think we’ve been able to strike a good balance between safety and aesthetics – thanks to the help of the Rhino design team! I’m proud of what we’ve set up, although I’m sure there will be lots of suggestions on how to take it to the next level.
I will talk about the practicalities involved in the execution of the new office plans!