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Lottie Mayland17 Feb 2021
  • COVID-19
  • Industry News
  • Insight

COVID Testing In Offices – The New Norm?

‘The new normal’ it’s a phrase we’ve heard more times than we can count over the last year, no one really quite knows what it means and it’s been used to describe everything from the continued use of facemasks right through to working from our bedrooms and treating a trip to the local shop as the day’s main outing. However, there is no doubt that as the country eases out of lockdown what we used to know as ‘normal’ will not be possible for quite some time and businesses of all sizes will have to factor in extra procedures in order to run a safe and COVID-secure office.

So, what will our new workplaces look like? Well, one thing that we could be about to see a lot more of are COVID testing centres in offices. This is something the government are encouraging; on their website GOV.org they say, “It is a voluntary decision for employers to run testing programmes for their staff. If done correctly, testing can provide confidence to workers and customers in the workplace and may help to protect and enable business continuity”.

Speaking to our clients a few have already started to implement their own testing stations, stating that regardless of the size of your company setting up a testing centre in your workplace is a lot easier and less hassle that many people might have thought. We spoke to the family office company, Caroline Baker Family Office Ltd, who explained how they have set up a testing station from their office in Fulham. Employees working in their client’s homes are tested before their shifts while those who work in their office are tested in a dedicated, secure space as they walked in – if anyone tests positive this gives them a chance to leave immediately without having infected anyone else.

An office of any size can set up a testing station and these could be something we come to expect in the future, regardless of whether we are working in an office of 4, 40 or even 400. Where testing stations are in place employees should be tested routinely regardless of whether they have symptoms or not. This is in line with the government’s announcement that rapid testing was to be rolled out more widely as even though office workers might not show symptoms if they test positive for COVID they are still able to infect others they might be working with. Rapid tests, also called lateral flow tests, take just 15 minutes to give a result and can help identify people with high levels of the virus who do not have symptoms. The team at CBFO Ltd have purchased the 15-minute rapid Healgen Tests and (at the time of writing) it is our understanding that if you operate an office of over 50 people the government will help fund the cost of the tests, however as their use grows the government are rumoured to be thinking about providing them free of charge for smaller companies too.

The government advises that enforcing tests is at the discretion of the individual employer, therefore you can insist that your employees prove a negative test result before coming into the office. However, while this seems sensible, we’d always advise open communication with all employees and full understanding from everyone before making any such demands. It’s best to consider your workplace, whether your employees absolutely need to be in the office and, if so, how much they can isolate or work in silo when there. It’s also very important to make it clear to all employees that testing does not mean standard social distancing and PPE guidelines should be not be followed. A test is just one piece of the puzzle in protecting against the spread of COVID-19 but we should all continue to take every necessary precaution when thinking about returning to the office. If you are preparing for a return to the office you may also be interested on our blog post ‘How to plan for a successful return to the office’, here.

Should you want any further advice on testing in offices we recommend taking a look at the Government guidelines here.