On 22 February the Prime Minister announced a cautious four-step roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England and - ultimately - ending them. 

Each step will be assessed against four data-based tests before restrictions can ease, which are that: 

  • the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully 

  • evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated 

  • infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS 

  • assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of COVID-19. 

There will be a minimum of five weeks between each step: four weeks for the data to reflect changes in restrictions, followed by one week's notice of the restrictions to be eased as applicable. 

The key dates and easing measures are (for infographic version, see below): 

Step 1 - from 8 March  

  • Children and students to return to education in schools and colleges, some university students on practical courses can return to face-to-face learning 

  • Wraparound childcare and other supervised children's activities can resume 

  • Care home residents to be allowed one regular visitor provided they are tested and wear PPE 

  • People can leave home for recreation outdoors with their household or support bubble, or with one person outside their household 

  • The stay at home requirement (except for permitted reasons) remains in place and people will still only be able to leave home for work purposes where they cannot reasonably work from home. 

Step 1 - from 29 March  

  • Outdoor gatherings of either 6 people or 2 households will be allowed, including in private gardens 

  • Outdoor sports facilities can reopen, and formally organised outdoor sports can resume 

  • The stay at home order will end, although people should continue to work from home where possible.  

Step 2 - no earlier than 12 April 

  • Non-essential retail, personal care premises and public buildings, e.g. libraries and community centres, can reopen. 

  • Most outdoor attractions and settings, e.g. zoos and theme parks, can reopen with social contact rules to prevent indoor mixing between households  

  • Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and swimming pools can reopen, but with no mixing between households. 

  • Hospitality venues can serve food and alcohol outdoors only.  

  • Self-contained accommodation where indoor facilities are not shared with other households can reopen. 

  • Funerals can continue with up to 30 people; weddings, receptions and commemorative events can take place with up to 15 people 

  • People should continue to work from home where possible. 

Step 3 - no earlier than 17 May 

  • Outdoor cinemas and theatres can re-open 

  • Indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes can also re-open 

  • Larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is lower) will also be allowed, as will those in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full (whichever is lower). 

  • In larger outdoor seated venues where crowds can spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend (or a quarter-full, whichever is lower). 

  • Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions, wakes and funerals 

  • People should continue to work from home where possible 

Step 4 - no earlier than 21 June 

  • All legal social contact restrictions can be removed 

  • Nightclubs can reopen, remaining restrictions on large events and performances to be removed 

  • People should continue to work from home where possible (subject to the findings of a government review of social distancing and other measures to limit transmission of COVID-19). 

For guidance on the easing of lockdown in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland see ‘Devolved Administrations’ in the ‘UK Government advice on social distancing’ section below. 

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As the parameters of the ‘new normal’ become better understood, workplace and facilities management professionals have a unique opportunity to take a leading role in the return to work, to ‘build back better’, and create and manage a new generation of workplaces. This will enable people and businesses to work safely, flexibly, collaboratively and productively, and provide the greatest benefit to the individual, the organisation and society in general.

Below you will find guidance we have created or compiled in collaboration with industry experts to support your organisations and employees returning to the workplace, in addition to enabling those that will continue to work from home to do so in a balanced manner. This guidance aims to provide a principled approach to support individuals with varying levels of responsibility and experience. It does not provide detailed technical information, but signposts to authoritative and extensive guidance.

On this page you will also find the results of our time-series YouGov research, which we commissioned in April and June to help inform the profession, industries and our guidance. This research provides key insights into the experiences, attitudes and concerns of UK office workers regarding remote working during COVID-19 and the prospect of returning to the office as social distancing measures eased in early summer. While a summer lockdown is not equivalent to a winter lockdown experienced now, valuable insights from then still stand.

We will continue to update this page regularly and according to the changing situation. Please bookmark and check this page regularly to stay informed.

‘Returning to the workplace’ research: workers want more flexibility in future and other game-changing findings

Following the onset of COVID-19 social distancing measures in the UK in March 2020, many workers were thrown into a ‘national home-working experiment’ as workplaces shut down, often fully, and remote working became the norm.

In response to this, IWFM commissioned time-series research into UK office workers’ experiences, attitudes, and concerns regarding the future easing of COVID-19 lockdown measures and the gradual return to work. This took the form of two YouGov surveys: one in April and another in June to track any changes and, indeed, consistencies over time. The intent: to shine a light on what our future workplaces may become and how organisations may need to adapt to employee needs and attitudes.

The results have highlighted a range of potentially game-changing findings that could signal fundamental changes to how many of us live and work, as well as how organisations will attract employees.

Click here to view the summarised results

1. What workers miss about working in the office:

  • Interaction with colleagues continues to be the thing we miss most about office life – with 68% missing face to face chats (down from 72%) and 61% missing face-to-face collaboration with colleagues (no change over time) 
  • 60% miss a clear separation between work and home life (down from 62%), and 34% miss a clear structure to the day (down from 40%).

2. What workers have enjoyed about working from home rather than in an office:

  • The lack of a commute is still the top thing we enjoy about working from home – with 75% enjoying the time saved (up from 70%) and 69% enjoying the financial savings (up from 67%).

3. The challenges workers have encountered while working from home:

  • 51% find it hard to stay motivated and focused (up from 50%)
  • 42% have distractions in the home (down from 44%)
  • 36% have an inappropriate working environment (down from 41%)
  • 39% find it hard to switch off at the end of the day and a quarter (up from 38%)
  • 28% have internet/tech issues (up from 25%).

4. Workers’ feelings towards going back to work in their office:

  • 34% are looking forward to it (down from 49%)
  • 34% are not looking forward to it (up from 19%).

5. How prepared workers feel their employer is for a safe return to the office:

  • 30% feel their employer is not prepared.

6. What workers think about how employers have communicated plans for staff returning to the office:

  • 59% have sent regular communication to keep employees informed of plans
  • 30% have shared a company risk assessment for returning to the office
  • 45% have encouraged employee involvement/feedback in return plans
  • 19% feel whilst their employer has communicated about plans, they have not done so enough.

7. How confident workers are that effective social distancing and health and safety measures will be implemented by their employer when they return to the office fully after lockdown has ended:

  • 26% aren’t confident.

8. The concerns workers have about returning to the office after the current UK lockdown restrictions are lifted:

  • The biggest concern is maintaining social distancing (49%) and hygiene/cleaning standards (49%)
  • 43% are concerned about spending more money commuting – rising to 58% of 18-24 year olds. More people are concerned about this aspect of the commute than being able to maintain social distancing on public transport (31%)
  • 42% are concerned about having less free time for personal activities (for example, exercise, household chores)
  • One fifth (21%) are concerned about a disconnection between employees working in the office and those continuing to work from home.

9. What workers want employers to do to help ease the transition of returning back to the office:

  • More flexible working options (73%)
  • Increase cleaning provisions (55%)
  • Regular communication on return plans (49%)
  • Adjusted desk organisation to help maintain social distancing (39%)
  • Providing personal protective equipment (29%)
  • More options to help avoid commuting on public transport (21%).

10. Further workers’ attitudes towards home-working and returning to the office:

  • Only 37% feel their employer is doing enough to protect their health and safety in formulating return to the office plans
  • 41% feel social distancing will be unrealistic to maintain in practice when we return to the office
  • 51% feel this period of home-working has made working in the office seem unnecessary
  • 61% feel this period of home-working has made them more likely to want to work from home more in the future – and nearly one fifth (17%) said not being offered more flexible working options upon a return to the office would lead them to search for a new job.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.

Returning to work: five guiding principles for FMs

Workplace and facilities managers will need to prepare buildings ready for reoccupation within the limits set by social distancing imperatives and help their organisations adjust, at pace, to a new set of operating norms. This kind of change programme requires professional leadership and represents a great opportunity for FMs to demonstrate the added value they offer in bringing together the space, culture and technology aspects of workplace into a workplace strategy which can enable organisations and individuals to remain productive.

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The immediate concern is the return of people to the building and this first stage may require several iterations, very likely in parallel with evolving social distancing measures, before you can plan for longer term ‘normality’. However, it is key to understand that you will need to plan for change over time.


1. The return of the employee/occupant - how many?

Firstly, the facilities lead should respond to government guidance on working safely during COVID-19 by carrying out a risk assessment to determine the workspace capacity for people returning and how best to keep people safe. This risk assessment should be done in consultation with workers or unions.

Employers have a legal responsibility to do everything reasonably practicable to minimise health and safety risks to their workers, while recognising that it is not possible to completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19. Consider also the capability and capacity of each individual to return to the workplace, including their transport requirements, and the Government’s safer travel guidance.

The risk assessment is a key tool to review the possible experiences and activities within the workspace to understand and identify potential hazards and to assess the risk of them occurring, so that mitigation measures can be put in place; it will therefore help you define not just how many can return, but how to manage this safely.

Social distancing requirements will likely mean that the number who can return to the workplace will remain dramatically reduced. To determine what the operational space is, you will have to consider not just the volume of space, but also factors such as access points and lifts, optimising flows and minimising bottlenecks and ventilation potential.  


  • the latest UK Government guidance on social distancing can be found here
  • the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has excellent advice on risk assessments; advice on controlling risks in the workplace can be found here, and an example risk assessment for an office-based business can be found here. The HSE has also provided this specific advice to help control the risk of coronavirus in workplaces.
  • the preparing buildings for re-use section on this page has additional prompts for a range of measures that should be taken.


2. What is the workplace strategy? Who needs to be there and what does this mean for the space?

Once you know how many people you can accommodate, you need to consider who needs to be physically in the workplace and who does not. This will help to prioritise and organise the space into an attractive environment so that it can accommodate the right activities. You should consider the need for meeting rooms, the potential removal of desks, the addition of screens (transparent where possible to promote connectivity). Continuing the practice of ‘hot-desking’ will require regular and thorough cleaning of the workstation area, but this may enable better social distancing and be more hygienic than allocating desks to individuals. Where possible provide modular and flexible solutions so that people have different options to suit their needs.

In addition to planning the usual work space, based on an understanding of which activities need to take place and how it is best organised within the building fabric, you will also need to consider the needs of the many people, possibly a majority, who will continue to work remotely. They will need to be supported to create workspaces at home that are conducive to productive working. Key considerations for home workers include how to support them with the right hardware, including chairs and IT, as well as navigating a new working dynamic including breaks and concentration techniques.

Most workplace strategies will not settle for a binary choice of office or home working, rather they will provide additional options of remote working and ongoing flexibility about how and when work is done. Giving control to individuals over how and when they work, as well as providing them with what they will need to do that, allows them to balance their work life demands, minimising stress and anxiety, benefitting all.

Whatever measures or adjustments that you put in place must avoid putting disabled workers at a disadvantage, take account of your duties under equality legislation, and be mindful of the particular needs of any groups or individuals whose protected characteristics might expose them to different degrees of risks.


3. Essential engagement and communications with employees

The most effective workplace strategy will be informed by insight – you need to understand concerns about likely workplace scenarios to best identify and accommodate an optimal balance between individual and organisational needs.

Engagement is a fundamental part of any workplace strategy, including two-way communication and transparency about the implementation of practical measures, such as cleaning and distancing regimes, which will be top of mind for people returning to the office. Not everyone is going to want to return to the workplace and not everyone’s home situation may allow this either. 

Following the introduction of tiers system on 23 November 2020, organisations may wish to recommunicate their workplace guidelines to provide clarity and reassurance to their employees.

FMs should collaborate with HR colleagues to survey employees to understand their needs and key concerns. Not only will this help to decide what to prioritise in your space management, but what you can do better to support people in making efficient home working spaces while at the same time ensuring people’s wellbeing and connectivity. Good practice would see a regular survey taking place, especially in larger organisations to help keep track of teams and, for example, to compare different approaches.

Along with employee engagement, open and transparent communications about what the business is doing will be important to retain trust in the organisation – internally and externally. In addition, the Government expects every employer with over 50 workers to publish their COVID-19 risk assessment on their website. Furthermore, the ongoing review of best practice, alongside the engagement and communication, will demonstrate a commitment to creating a safe and healthy workplace. 

If you manage a workplace in a building with multiple occupiers, you will also need to engage and coordinate with the different stakeholders so that everybody's health and safety is protected.


4. ‘Building’ response to the new workplace strategy 

In addition to a people survey, analysis of space utilisation and general building use should inform the post COVID-19 occupancy footprint and other approaches, including cleaning protocols as the biggest concerns for people around returning to the workplace are maintaining social distancing and hygiene. 

Increasing cleaning operations during the day and in high traffic areas will help maintain a visible presence. Measures such as placing sufficient sanitiser throughout the workplace, clear displays of health and safety information, and regular communication on measures being taken throughout the building so that occupants can see the efforts of the organisation to keep them safe are all important actions in promoting trust and confidence in safety.

The risk assessment should inform employers about the need for any appropriate PPE. Staggered arrival and departure routines should be considered as lifts (and stairs) will not be able to accommodate as many people at the same time. Visible and audible signalling should be used to indicate safe zones both in and outside the lifts, and the wider workspace, so that social distancing can be maintained consistently throughout. Employers should also consider their policies on testing people, and whether in addition to government testing where needed, an antigen test would be offered to people in the organisation.

In addition to providing a space-based response to the social distancing challenge, workplace and facilities managers will need to ensure ongoing compliance with health and safety to ensure the building is a genuinely safe workplace: PPM, lift safety checks, water systems checks, deep cleans, fire system checks, security, and so on, should all be reviewed well in advance of the return so they can be planned properly. Ideally, at least three to four weeks – possibly longer for multi-occupied buildings - should be set aside for this as the availability of suppliers for such checks might be strained both by demand as well as by potential sickness. The HSE will expect a building to be 100% compliant before (re-)occupation.

The section ‘Preparing buildings for re-use’ below includes a variety of prompts to consider. More information on testing eligibility and processes to follow can be found in the testing section below.


5. Staying flexible and leading the ongoing change programme for the next phase and beyond

Now is the time to demonstrate leadership in providing and implementing the solutions that workplaces need. While you are likely to already be working closely together with IT and HR to provide solutions you will need to work with other key decision-making functions such as communications and finance teams to enact your workplace strategy efficiently.

The initial return to work is only the first phase in a long transition to a ‘new normal’. It is therefore important to remain flexible and resilient in your planning so that you can adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. You should ensure solid business continuity plans remain up-to-date to manage a sudden return to home-working in case of a further lockdowns.

Alongside this mid-term planning, you should start considering the long-term implications for your office space footprint alongside other workplace adaptations that will help to focus minds on the organisation’s long-term objectives. It is important that organisations do not plan to revert to business as usual without taking on board learnings from how they managed the change.

Furthermore, there is major opportunity to use this rethinking to return to a better workplace, offering greater flexibility and choice while working towards more ambitious sustainability goals. COVID-19 has taught us that sustainability has not disappeared off the agenda – if anything, quite the opposite. It is not only necessary, it is also possible to make a difference.

UK Government advice on social distancing

The UK Government has announced that, effective from 2 December 2020, new local tier rules will apply

Business and commercial activity – including the provision of FM services, maintenance and essential repair work – should continue if it can be carried out in accordance with UK Government guidance on social distancing (click here for details).  

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Where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full, you should consider what activities need to continue and take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment. Further UK Government guidance can be found here, specific business support guidance can be found here, while more information for workers on working safely and other support mechanisms can be found here. In addition, the Health and Safety Executive has guidance for business on how to manage risk and risk assessment at work along with specific advice to help control the risk of coronavirus in workplaces

Where possible, the appropriate regulations and/or guidance on social distancing in the work space should be followed. Social distancing should also be maintained at entrances and exits, and in shared and/or public areas such as canteens and receptions. Measures to consider implementing include floor markings, one-way traffic flows on staircases and corridors, reducing lift capacity, increasing space allocated to social areas, providing additional sanitiser points, and deactivating security barriers or turnstiles. 

The UK Government’s guidance on Working safely during COVID-19 in offices and contact centres provides detailed advice, with illustrated examples, on moving around buildings, using lifts, protocols for common areas and sanitation. 

Other recommendations include keeping activity time as short as possible, reducing the number of people each worker has contact with by using fixed teams or partnering, and implementing back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face). 

Devolved administrations 

While the guiding principles on returning to work apply to the whole of the UK and beyond, the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have adopted differing approaches in dealing with the pandemic and putting restrictions in place. Those countries have issued specific guidelines which vary from those of the UK Government referred to in this guidance in the following areas (please click on the link in each country name): 

Social distancing: Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland 

Working safely: Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland 

Testing: Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland 


Testing for COVID-19

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Anyone in the UK who is displaying coronavirus symptoms is eligible for a test

From December, there will be weekly tests for staff in prisons, food manufacturers and those delivering and administering vaccines. Testing will also be done to help schools and universities keep people safe. 

The UK Government is asking employers to encourage workers to heed any notifications to self-isolate under the NHS test and trace service. Guidance for employers, workers and self-employed people - including on self-isolation and financial support - if someone in the workplace is contacted by NHS Test and Trace, is available here.

Additional guidance is provided on the testing process, when and where to get tests and testing in care homes. 

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Employers can refer essential workers for testing if they are self-isolating because either they or member(s) of their household have coronavirus symptoms. Although the workplace and facilities profession is not explicitly named on the official list of essential workers, many of the sectors in which they operate are included: health and social care, schools, prisons, probation services, to name just a few. The full list of eligible essential workers for England can be found here.

Please note: these tests only indicate if the individual currently has the virus; they do not show if they have previously had the virus and are therefore immune. Such antibody tests are currently not available; the testing programme will prioritise NHS and care home staff who are willing to be tested.

Health and wellbeing

Your COVID-19 risk assessment should inform you about any need for PPE or the use of face coverings. The UK Government has stated that any PPE currently used for non-COVID-19 risks should continue to be used, but that additional PPE is not beneficial except in clinical settings or a small number of other workplaces, or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of the virus. However, if your risk assessment does show the risk of transmission is very high and that PPE is required, then you must provide the appropriate PPE free of charge to workers who need it. UK Government advice on COVID-19 PPE can be found here.

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UK Government advice on the wearing of face coverings is that it may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure in protecting others if an individual is infected but has not developed symptoms, or in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. However, face coverings are not a replacement for other ways of managing risk such as handwashing and should not be relied on for the purpose of health and safety assessments. Early on in the first lockdown, the Government published its PPE strategy.

As part of your workplace strategy you should also consider the ongoing physical and mental support needed both for returnees and their home working counterparts. Monitor the wellbeing of people who are working from home and help them stay connected to the rest of the workforce, especially if the majority of their colleagues are on-site.

The onset of autumn saw the escalation of stricter measures, which culminated in national lockdowns over several months. The process, in combination with the darker winter months may see a negative effect on employees’ morale and wellbeing. FMs should work together with HR colleagues to remind workers of these rules and monitor what additional support may be required. 

You will also need to consider greater protections for those groups of people who are at higher risk, including individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Adjusted wellbeing plans will help people to adapt to new ways of working and new workplace concepts as these continue to evolve. The importance of getting this right for the long term cannot be underestimated.  

HSE has work-related stress guidance advice, while their stress toolkit has ideas which you can adapt to suit current working arrangements.

Specialist guidance on protecting mental health in social isolation during the pandemic is available from MIND and the Mental Health Foundation. Further signposting to emotional support can be found at UNISON’s There for You charity.

Preparing buildings for re-use – space-based activity prompts  

This section provides advice and guidance for preparing buildings for re-use, covering health and hygiene, utilities, fire safety, security, cyber security, and other practices which will help to ensure safety at work for employees, contractors and other building users.

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Once you have determined what activities will continue to take place in the workplace, how many people will occupy the building and at what times - and therefore have an understanding of your future building systems requirements - you will need to give careful consideration and plan the extent, scheduling and order of maintenance, cleaning and testing activities.

If regular statutory maintenance or testing was due to take place during the closure and has not been undertaken, then it must be carried out before the building is re-occupied as the HSE will expect 100% compliance before (re)occupation.

Keeping a checklist of tasks and actions is vital during such a critical phase of the recovery. You may find the following Facilities Management Re-Occupancy checklist useful:

Click here to download the checklist.


Health and hygiene

  • ensure ready access to hand sanitisers, tissues, personal equipment such as keyboards, mice and headphones, and materials to wipe down surfaces 
  • consider whether PPE should be provided. The wearing of face coverings has been compulsory in shops from 24 July 2020 and may become mandatory in other settings. Providing such PPE may be seen as best practice and encourage staff to return to the workplace. The need for PPE will depend on the activity being carried out, the specific workplace, and the individual employee. If your Risk Assessment concludes that PPE is required, your organisation is required to provide it, train the employee(s) on its use, and check that it is being used correctly. UK Government advice on COVID-19 PPE can be found here and in section 6.1 here. The latter also provides more advice on face masks in section 6.2. Please note: PPE used in a health context will be of a different grade to that used by the wider public and in workplaces. HSE has provided advice on fit testing face masks to avoid transmission during the coronavirus outbreak
  • NHS Test and Trace: UK Government guidance on actions sectors and businesses need to take to protect staff, visitors and customers, including on taking part in the Test and Trace programme. (For example, workplace canteens open to staff only do not need to collect data for Test and Trace.)
  • waste: the UK Government has issued specific guidance on the disposal of cleaning waste and PPE during the pandemic
  • check the latest health guidance from the UK Government and other authorities such as the HSE, for example on sanitising, cleaning, handwashing, and social distancing 
  • cleaning: assess what level is required prior to re-opening, particularly if any building occupant or visitor contracted the coronavirus; review ongoing plans to help prevent any re-occurrence. UK Government advice published in February suggests that human coronaviruses can survive on inanimate objects and can remain viable for up to five days at temperatures of 22-25°C and relative humidity of 40-50% (which is typical of air-conditioned indoor environments) 
  • BICSc has guidance on cleaning and decontamination after an outbreak (including instructions on suitable PPE and materials), infection control awareness (including how infections spread and appropriate cleaning protocol, materials and PPE), and cleaning and disinfection quality in UK hospitals and other healthcare facilities
  • the UK Government has issued guidance on the cleaning of non-healthcare settings outside the home.
  • cleaning and maintenance teams may require training on good hygiene practice, on any new schedules and protocols they will need to implement and to update them on the correct use of PPE. Additional supervision and checking may be required to build staff confidence and willingness to return to the workplace
  • review protocols for new incidences of COVID-19 on the premises and make sure they remain up to date
  • during re-use, consider enhanced cleaning regimes during the day and in high traffic/shared areas such as breakout zones and on commonly touched surfaces such as door handles
  • consider what measures implemented prior to and/during the building shutdown would be good practice to maintain, for example a visitor logbook with contact details in case contacts of a future virus victim need to be traced. Organisations in certain sectors should collect details and maintain records of staff, customers and visitors on their premises to support NHS Test and Trace. For details of the organisations this guidance applies to and the information to be collected, click here
  • review use of welfare facilities and whether adequate social distancing and cleaning protocols be maintained for the planned occupancy level and times
  • consider replacing any touch surfaces with automatic and sensor operated tools, for example automatic or revolving doors, instead of push doors, sensor operated lighting.


Air and water services, ventilation, utilities, and fire safety 

  • carry out full checks on: fire safety systems: electrical systems (especially to fire safety equipment, security systems, emergency lighting and business critical services, such as server rooms); water systems and treatments (ensure boilers and pumps are functioning properly and at correct levels, check for leaks in water systems and other products); all HVAC and environmental systems (consider if they are appropriate for dealing with any future virus outbreaks); the integrity of the building envelope.
  • make sure you are fully compliant with all statutory and mandatory testing regimes – these will need to be checked at least three-to-four weeks in advance of re-use to allow for supplier availability. Make sure to use competent people. Re-set all mechanical set-points to appropriate occupancy levels 
  • liaise with service, testing and maintenance providers to ensure appropriate provision levels can be restarted where not maintained
  • water systems: hygiene requirements are covered by the HSE’s ACOP L8 and CIC/CIPHE guidance. CIBSE’s TM13 gives further guidance on minimising the risks of legionella, while the UK Government provides guidance on disease prevention and the national surveillance scheme
  • electrical safety: checks are required under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and BS7671 (18th edition electrical regulations). A competent electrical contractor should be consulted about any requirements to restart electrical systems; the Electrical Contractors Association can provide guidance
  • gas safety: the Gas Safe register provides advice and guidance on inspection
  • Ventilation: HVAC plays a crucial role in controlling infection; these are some general principles:
    • ventilation should be maintained to high levels in all occupied parts of the building and, if possible, set to 24/7 running in high risk areas, such as toilets
    • air-conditioning should use fresh air rather than recirculated air, windows should be opened where possible, and filter changes increased for better air quality
    • ventilation systems should be flushed of air 24 hours before reoccupation and set to operate for at least two hours before and after staff arrive with increased rates during occupancy
    • ensure sufficient air changes to help dissipate COVID-19 droplets (these can remain on hard surfaces for up to 5 days). The frequency will depend on the type of workplace, number of people and the type of work undertaken.

Further detailed advice is provided by CIBSE

  • fire safety: testing and maintenance routines of fire detection and protection systems, including sprinklers and fire extinguishers, should be brought up-to-date as soon as possible. Other actions to consider include:
    • review Fire Risk Assessments in light of any risks incurred by new working locations or patterns, or changes of use
    • review Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans to reflect current staffing levels and working practices, paying particular attention to any vulnerable workers
    • review risks of measures, such as keeping fire doors open to reduce surface contact with handles (note: fire doors should be kept closed unless they are held open by purpose-made automatic devices)
    • ensure staff working on-site are trained to carry out fire safety responsibilities
    • encourage those working from home to check fire safety protocols and equipment (for example, test smoke alarms and unplug equipment when not in use)
    • further guidance from the National Fire Chiefs Council on COVID-19-related safety can be found here, and on competent fire safety risk assessment here. Their general COVID-19 advice page can be found here.
  • lifts and escalators: passenger lifts and lifting equipment must comply with the LOLER requirements. Your maintenance contractor should confirm that lifts are compliant and fit for service
  • BESA has produced comprehensive guidance (SFG30) on engineering services that need to be considered for the mothballing and re-activation of buildings, the link can be found here.


Security and access 

  • consider how to best protect your reception staff, use transparent screening or signage (floor markings, guidance ropes, and so on) for appropriate distancing
  • ensure adequate protection for security personnel who are amongst the occupations most exposed to the risk of COVID-19 (and with the highest mortality rate, according to ONS figures). ASIS have published a range of guidance and resources for security professionals 
  • check for signs of damage/vandalism around the building/perimeter, check outdoor spaces and outbuildings for unauthorised occupation (for example, rough sleepers, children) 
  • Police Crime Prevention advice for empty commercial premises can be found here (your local police force may be able to provide additional guidance) 
  • UK Policing and the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure have published a protective security self-assessment checklist to help organisations understand their security assurance strengths and weaknesses during a pandemic

Other considerations 

  • insurance: if required, notify your provider about operational changes and whether statutory maintenance, especially of fire systems, is up-to-date (or, if this has not been completed yet, what mitigation measures you have put in place)
  • mixed-use properties: do any occupants/residents remain in the vulnerable category (those aged 70 or older, or with an underlying health condition, or pregnant), or are any self-isolating: do they have access to food and any medical supplies? 
  • reinstate/adjust services with third party suppliers for waste services, food and drink services where social distancing can be maintained, post collection/distribution, and so on 
  • pest control: check build up and traps, replenish bait levels
  • provide additional storage space for those people wanting to use bicycles instead of public transport
  • furloughed staff and other HR issues: the CIPD have produced guidance on these aspects of returning to the workplace.


UK Government advice and guidance:

GOV UK (see guidance for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland): working safely in offices, construction sites and other workplaces 

GOV UK: workplace guidance on the NHS test and trace service

GOV UK: mental health and wellbeing aspects of COVID-19

GOV UK: support for businesses and employers during coronavirus

GOV UK: general guidance for employees during coronavirus

GOV UK: implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings


CBI: the latest information, insight and support for businesses

A number of facilities management and property organisations have also published their own guidance on making preparations for returning to a variety of workplaces:

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Atalian Servest: The FM’s guide to re-opening your workplace

Airmic: premises decontamination and disinfection (webinar)

British Council for Offices: office design and operation after COVID-19 (accessible to members only)

Buro Happold: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the ‘next-Normal’

Engie: Workspace 2, Supporting the creation of the new workspace in a post COVID-19 world

JLL: re-entry, a guide for working in the next normal

Knight Frank: COVID-19 office re-occupancy roadmap

Mace: return to work client product pack

Mitie: getting Britain back to business


ACAS: coronavirus and mental health at work

BMA: managing sickness and return to work

British Psychological Society: how employers and employees can prepare for the new normal at work

CIPD: returning to the workplace

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work: back to the workplace in safe and healthy conditions