As we begin to ease out of lockdown, businesses and employees are preparing to return to the office. Whether it’s only a few days a week or full time it’s important that we return to the office safely. After more than a year of people working from their kitchens and living rooms, working out how to minimise the risk to employees on their return will present a big challenge for businesses. We spoke to Allan Wood, Managing Director of Optima Major Works about how we are helping businesses return their staff to the office safely. What have our clients been saying about going back to the office? Speaking with our clients I have found that the pandemic has allowed businesses to adapt the way they work. However, on the whole people are looking forward to returning to the office in one way or another. We have been engaged with a number of blue chip organisations who have been asking for our help on how to get their staff back into their offices safely. People are most excited about the opportunity to socialise and physically work together again. Not only will this streamline their communication, but it has the added benefit of keeping people engaged with their work. Furthermore, returning to the office allows people to feel more connected with their team and the wider workforce again. Collaboration and the opportunity to work with our colleagues is one of the biggest drivers for returning to the office. As a result, our clients are looking to move away from the convention of densely packed floor plates. Employers want to facilitate collaboration on their return by using bench desking and other options. Furthermore, if there is one thing, we have all missed it’s the sense of human connection the office gives us. Even if it is socially distanced, a quick chat over a morning coffee makes such a difference to my day rather than yet another video chat. Also returning to the office can build more of a routine and help us to structure our day. How can we help people returning to the office? A key aspect for us and our clients is safeguarding the physical and mental health of employees. One way we can do this is by giving them the confidence they can return to the office safely. Therefore, businesses have been asking me how best to adapt their workspaces to make them safer for their staff. They are seeking solutions that allow staff to collaborate in smaller meeting spaces, which offer a high degree of privacy. These spaces must also deliver sufficient air changes to maintain a healthy working environment where people can come together and work effectively. Glass partitions offer an ideal solution that allows you to maintain a light, open plan design whilst creating private acoustic areas for people to work in comfortably. Equally, businesses tell me they are looking for new, interesting ways to redesign their office whilst keeping their employees safe. Our Adaptable Meeting Room offers a unique, adaptable solution to transform any office space. So much more than a furniture pod, the AMR not only promotes collaboration but also offers a safe and comfortable space for people to work all day. Creating safer offices with the Optima Adaptable Meeting Room Hygiene has become more important than ever in the last year and one thing the pandemic has given us is the opportunity to develop the AMR further. The introduction of both antimicrobial technology and UV sterilizing lights offer effective ways to clean the AMR. We have partnered with BioCote, bringing their antimicrobial technology to the AMR. It provides lasting and effective protection against harmful bacteria, mould fungi, and viruses by up 99.99%. We are now also offering the Fuzone500 lighting system from Future Designs. This air and surface purification system uses ultraviolet light and ozone to eliminate any viruses or bacteria. The system can be set to come on when you leave the AMR. It removes 99% of airborne bacteria, cleaning all surfaces ready for the next meeting. We’ve spent three years developing this freestanding meeting room which offers a versatile modular solution designed to fit any space. Another great feature of the AMR is it can be built, taken down, or relocated quickly and easily to adapt with your business. The needs of businesses are always changing, and the pandemic has accelerated many of these changes. With its revolutionary twin fan ventilation, smart technology, and superior acoustic performance the AMR delivers the fit-out quality you expect from Optima in one unique product. About the author Managing Director, Allan Wood joined Optima in 2010 and brought with him a wealth of expertise, particularly in system partitions. Having worked within the construction industry for over 34 years, Allan has been central to the delivery of many landmark projects and he has made many friends at the top of the industry along the way.