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Returning to a safe workplace will help us feel comfortable as we overcome the confinement stage, the most difficult period of this pandemic, and the first few phases of lifting restrictions. While companies define their “back to work” plans, employees have concerns and understand that it's not possible to return to their workstations under the same circumstances as before the crisis. The fear of returning to the office will stay until there are structural changes and new protocols, along with the introduction of a company culture that emphasises the safety of workers. It is time to prepare physically and mentally to adapt and create new habits to suit the “new normal” in a post-COVID world. Our behavioural habits and our culture can collide with the new recommendations that are being established to coexist with a virus that is still very unknown and among us which can make us feel quite vulnerable. Nowadays, not only do we have to adhere to social distancing and the use of masks, nor only about the reduced capacity in spaces, but we also need to consider recommendations that change our unconscious day-to-day habits, including avoiding direct contact in high contact areas, not leaning on surfaces of public spaces, and even coughing or sneezing into our elbow instead of our hands. At Talent Garden we understand that making visual changes such as restructuring the layout of our coworking spaces is not the only measure we should apply to guarantee the safety of our members. It is necessary to establish a work culture that encourages picking up these new habits and ways to interact to collaborate and help us to keep the spirit of our community, while simultaneously safeguarding everyones safety. Hence, we believe that these structural changes must coincide with consistent and transparent communication plans with Talent Garden employees playing an exemplary role in implementing these new habits to incorporate into our routine.

1 | Hygiene First: Protect Yourself and Others

According to Vodafone News Centre, office jokes and light-hearted conversation (41%) and missing colleagues (40%) are two main factors that UK workers miss the most since they moved to the home office, and these percentages are likely to be similar in other European countries. But how can we go back to the office without putting our health or our colleagues’ at risk? Taking into account that we spend approximately 8 hours a day at work, it is highly important to prioritise hygiene. We are already familiar with the recommended health measures for COVID-19, but it is necessary to review and pay attention to updates or changes.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
  • Use single-use tissues and avoid touching your face.
  • Keep at least 2m social distance with other people.
  • Use face masks indoors, especially in public places.
These are a handful of the main measures established to prevent another possible outbreak of a virus that has changed the world for over 4 months. It is worth considering the magnitude of this statement to understand the importance of respecting the hygiene measures. Talent Garden care about our community and aim to implement these measures without causing stress amongst our members, which is why we have restructured our different workspaces, event spaces, common spaces, desks, cafe, and receptions to invite people to respect the social distance. We have also placed reminders in key places to promote the new way to coexist at work safely.

2 | Be Cautious In High Contact Areas

This might be subjective to some, as opinions vary depending on peoples level of concern. However, protecting those in high contact areas is one of the most important factors when applying the different safety measures in our campus: touching a light switch, opening a door, moving a chair, taking a glass from the kitchen, leaning on surfaces… actions that we do with our hands that we don’t normally think about. Keeping in mind that becoming obsessed with cleanliness may drive us crazy, it is still vital to always be aware: every space has disinfectant gel at the entrance of compulsory use, signs reminding you to wash your hands have been placed around the campus to avoid putting yourself unconsciously at risk. It is proven that soap and disinfectant gel kills the virus (UNESCO). Even increasing the number of people with clean hands by 10% could slow down the rate at which disease can spread by as much as 24%. We have ensured to carry out the necessary procedures and provide disinfectant gel inside our campuses that will ensure members will remember to clean their hands. Also, we make sure to provide paper napkins because it reduces the risk as you can dispose of them after being in a high contact area.

3 | Connect While Social Distancing

As mentioned, meeting our work colleagues again is one of the positives to returning to the office, keeping in mind that it is necessary to apply the safety measures and be respectful.  It is natural to feel that our colleagues are part of our family and that we can easily reduce our “alert level” with them, almost shaking hands by mistake or sitting next to each other during a meeting. The  mind automatically returns to normality before the health crisis when reuniting with people who were also at home for months. At Talent Garden we aim to help our community members feel comfortable and secure in our coworking spaces while we incorporate new restrictions seamlessly to restrict big changes in a typical daily routine, or incrementing the fear of getting infected. It is important to continue to collaborate with fellow coworkers while keeping a physical distance to reap the benefits of returning to work while reducing any worries you may have. The social aspect of working was lost at the home office so it is healthy for your mind to maintain these relations and rapport when returning to work. When socialising, make sure to prioritise respecting boundaries as some colleagues may be or have a family member that is at risk, therefore taking care of others and be able to coexist to guarantee everyones mental and physical well-being while returning to work. 

4 | Respect Capacity Limitations in Common Spaces

Social distancing has made many changes to our flex desks, office space, and meeting rooms. For example, meeting rooms made for 5 people and now can only fit 2, and training rooms for 20 people can now only handle 15 people can be inside, our cafĂ© is carrying to go cups. These situations can generate frustration if you don’t plan ahead when returning to the office. Luckily, Talent Garden’s coworking campuses have a wide variety of spaces with different capacities and flexible layouts to adapt to different needs. In the conventional office space is is uncommon to find such flexibility, and therefore it is important to plan ahead to avoid stressing situations in areas unable to diversify when facing challenges. 

5 | Stay At Home If You Are Experiencing Symptoms

We have reached a stage where we cannot afford a second wave of COVID as we may be heading into a recession, and staying at home because of a slight fever or suspicious cough has become an act of responsibility. Make sure to understand what the symptoms of COVID are, and listen to your body and be extra cautious. Due to the work culture that has been established over the years, it seems that staying home was a sign of a lack of commitment, but now it is proved that remote working is absolutely possible - we have already applied it and proved that the machine keeps working. Now the responsibility to not infect others is ours. In shared working spaces not only we protect the members of our company, but the rest of the SME's, startups, and freelancers that are part of our community.

6 | Keep Updated to Changes In Restrictions

Communication is always key, especially in times of uncertainty. The phases of lifting restrictions differ in terms of dates and structure in every country, and all phases are subject to change as the government monitors new cases and recoveries to plan ahead based on progress. This is why educating yourself regularly about new protocols is valuable along with understanding the changes in peoples behaviour and actions under different stages as restrictions lift. As a coworking space, we have the responsibility to communicate effectively and  guarantee that both information and our staff are easily accessible to solve any concern or question. Here you can see how Talent Garden is responding to COVID-19. In order to apply a successful internal communication process in our company we take the following into account:
  • Solve doubts and concerns with transparency and efficiency.
  • Make access to official communications easy for members and coworkers to read directly instead of using intermediaries.
  • Keeping our team leaders informed and aligned.
  • Send notifications if any modifications are made.

7 | Use Your Common Sense

Common sense is a key factor to a safe return to work. Everyone should feel no hesitation to prioritise their safety first. Maintaining dialogue with managers is the best way to answer questions, show concerns and suggest improvements when necessary.  Talent Garden operates to ensure cohesiveness and mutual respect, and just as we take care of our parents, grandparents and kids, we take care of each of our members. We actively listen to each query or doubt and strive to improve in order to offer the best service possible to our community of over 4,500 members, and simultaneously ensure that our campuses are the best alternative to the conventional offices or home office.
Article updated on: 09 August 2023
Talent Garden
Written by
Talent Garden, Digital Skills Academy

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