Health and safety experts have set out some of the ways in which businesses should keep workers safe if they are unable to work from home as COVID-19 cases soar across the North East.

As part of their Future Of The Workplace study, Citation has urged businesses to do things like ban tea rounds, take meetings outdoors, and introduce further hygiene measures such as temperature checks and UV light disinfectants.

The report comes as Council leaders in the North East are set to discuss whether the region will be placed into the strictest tier of lockdown restrictions later this week.

Image recognition technology might need to be introduced to spot COVID symptoms before staff enter the workplace, tea rounds should be banned to prevent cross-contamination and team meetings could now take place outdoors, according to the study.

Gillian McAteer, head of employment law, believes these measures can help with cases on the rise in the region. She said: “Businesses that cannot accommodate remote working may need to implement a number of creative measures in order to enforce hygiene, safety and social distancing.”

“It could also require them to entirely re-think whole areas of their workplace, including break areas, toilets and meeting rooms, which are especially dangerous given the rise of coronavirus cases.”

One of the changes proposed by Citation’s report ‘The Future Of The Workplace’ is to have team meetings take place outdoors. Futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson, who contributed to the study, said: “If it’s a nice day, have your meeting outside on the grass. That is an awful lot safer than having it inside, because the wind is going to blow the viruses away and the sunlight is going to keep things pretty sterile.”

The study also warns that kitchens and break zones will be two of the most challenging areas for businesses once employees begin re-entering the workplace. It suggests lunch times will need to be staggered and employees should not share kitchenware to prevent cross-contamination.

This means the death of the traditional workplace tea round, according to Dr. Pearson. He continued: “A lot of rituals like the office tea round might die out for quite a while. What we have to do for the time being is be super hygienic in the office and much more aware of our personal hygiene. You should be thinking all the time: ‘Is someone else going to be touching this same surface?’”

Some of the other potential changes businesses could make according to Citation’s study include hygiene stations at every touchpoint, the installation of automatic doors and introducing UV light disinfectants that will kill up to 96% of the coronavirus in 30 minutes.

Citation’s Gillian McAteer concluded: “Most employees will continue to work from home during this local lockdown. They may only come into work to complete tasks that cannot be done remotely. In instances where staff will be required in the workplace, however, businesses should take extra steps to protect their employees.”