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Essential support for colleagues, clients and FM partners

11 November 2020

The need to establish robust processes to support all team members is highlighted by our latest special feature in our series of Covid-19 support articles

Among the many developments emerging this year as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic is the need to provide reassurance and support to staff members, many of whom have had to adjust to new ways of working.

One of the most important aspects to identify is the level of assistance required by each individual, which will depend on each person’s own circumstances, including the impact of any changes and their ability to deal with these.

One of the most obvious areas of concentration will be to encourage good mental health, of course, which may require specialist knowledge and expertise.

There has been a noticeable increase in companies and organisations introducing and supporting schemes to assist in raising levels of mental health, including encouraging all team members to be aware when their colleagues are in need of assistance.

Examples of this in the current climate could be identifying individuals that struggle with working from home for any reason, or those particularly concerned about returning to their workplace.

Discussion on this last issue took place between members of the PFM Editorial Advisory Board and, as always, proved extremely helpful in identifying the need to reassure all team members that their workplace had been made as safe as possible.

One of the main messages to emerge within this was the essential need to raise levels of communication throughout the business to highlight all the measures introduced and how individuals were expected to behave when returning to their office.

They should be informed of the details of one way systems of entry and exit, as well as directions of walking within the office, improved cleaning regimes, along with expectations on the wearing of face coverings and observing social distancing requirements in all areas.

Additional recommendations included the need to avoid dramatic signs and extensive use of black and yellow tape, which could be seen as intimidating by some, and instead relying on the use of more inclusive language and encouragement to deliver more reassuring messages.

While mental health is important, team members may also be in need of practical support, such as advice in creating an effective workspace within their home.

Alison Kitchingman and Anais Stone

As with any work environment, individuals should be able to complete their tasks in a comfortable environment that does not impact on their physical or mental health.

This has been further emphasised by regular messages from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which have been widely shared to remind employers that this is part of their corporate responsibility to employees.

Expert comment was also invited from industry experts and Milliken marketing and design director Alison Kitchingman shared her thoughts on providing higher levels of support for facilities users: “Safety as well as mental and physical well-being are now firmly at the top of the corporate agenda,” she says.

“Employees need help and reassurance that the office can be safe and find ways to maintain social distancing and good hygiene practices.” Companies have an obligation to create a work environment that minimises the potential for virus transmission, Ms Kitchingman continues.

They also have a responsibility to develop a new culture and promote responsible behaviours, where employees will be required to play their part and act responsibly.

“Flooring can be an effective tool to help with social distancing and promote mental and physical well-being in the workplace. Floor coverings can provide the perfect medium for informative communications that can direct traffic flow and indicate the positioning of individuals and furniture pieces. Signage embedded into the floor is impossible to overlook and simple to follow.”

Carpet can effectively be used to define boundaries, create zones, provide wayfinding, set navigation, direct traffic and provide a measuring tool through graphic messaging, colours and patterns, she continues.

Floor tiles not only provide an effective way to design important new safety elements into the office layout, they also help promote a spirit of positivity and sense of security.

“They provide a highly visible and easy to follow guide for employees returning to work. In addition, they contribute well-being elements to improve the workplace experience: from introducing vibrant colours and beautiful patterns, to using cushion backing for improved acoustics and luxurious underfoot comfort,” says Ms Kitchingman.

Humidity Solutions business development for indoor quality Anais Stone says that whether working at home or in the office, the quality of the air we are breathing has never been more in focus.

“Whilst acknowledging that good ventilation is key, our homes and offices are increasingly built to be more airtight to improve insulation and conserve heating costs and, as winter approaches, we will be less inclined to open the windows – how can we ensure that our indoor air is as ‘clean’ as possible?” she asks.

Firstly, users need to find out more about their air quality, Ms Stone continues. There are a variety of monitors available – wall or desk mounted – which monitor and record all the vital elements of IAQ, including VOC, CO2, relative humidity and temperature.

Where improvement is required, and where adequate systems are not already built into the fabric/design of the building, or are out-dated, there are some straightforward and cost-effective retro-fit solutions: Humidity control is achievable as stand-alone units or positioned above a false ceiling to regulate levels.

Scientific evidence has proven that maintaining relative humidity between 40% and 60% will significantly reduce the transmission of airborne viruses, she continues.

Stand-alone room filtration units can also provide fresh, clean air by trapping 99.99% of ultra-fine particles using HEPA filtration.

This removes particles up to 0,003 microns, captures chemical pollutants (VOCs) using activated carbon filter, and can be completed with an app to allow condition monitoring and remote control.

She further explains that heat recovery units allow fresh air into a building whilst being filtered and recovering the heat from the extracted, stale air and can be extremely efficient. “Provision for air movement, filtration and humidity all greatly improve Indoor air quality.

Monitoring and recording of these values is critical to establishing, and maintaining, a healthy air quality.

“As each building varies in its requirements due to location, usage, existing infrastructure etc, we do recommend consulting a specialist who can advise on the right solutions for your specific environment,” Ms Stone concludes.

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