COVID-19 office re-occupancy roadmap

COVID-19  2019-nCoV concept. Human hands holding various smart devices with coronavirus alerts on their screens. flat vector illustration  

Knight Frank’s strategic consultancy team consider how we will repopulate the workplace and have provided a road map for social distancing and creating a safe place to work

COVID-19 has upended the world and as much as we all want to return to normal, some aspects of business and the office will change. In the short-term, we are all sheltering at home and eventually we will be distancing ourselves in the office, all in an effort to save lives.  

The WHO advises that all employers need to consider how best to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and lower the impact in their workplace as they begin re-population. Whilst we await relaxation of controls and guidance from the government, best practice is already being developed by organisations preparing for re-occupancy of offices. It is critical to build trust and confidence with staff to ensure that they feel safe to return. So, what does this mean for the office?

Environmental vs. Behavioural Change

There are two categories of change that will need to occur in the workplace. Environmental changes include those mitigations that are not driven by behaviour such as increased airflow, changing HVAC filters or enhanced cleaning regimes. Behavioural changes require the workforce to do things differently, such as applying strict clear desk policies to ensure workstations can be cleaned and social distancing respected within the workplace.  Environmental changes are easier and straightforward, but behavioural changes will take time to develop, with the help of training and, most importantly, communication.   

Start with the Landlord (in multi-let offices)

Start evaluating the need for change with the areas you have the least control over. Ask your landlord how they plan to respond as tenants begin to return their workforce to the office. Questions to ask include:

  1. Building Access: How will building access for employees, visitors and vendors change during the re-population?
  2. Building Common Areas: How will common and shared spaces like receptions, elevators, amenity spaces, restrooms, bicycle storage areas etc be cleaned and maintained until things return to normal?
  3. Cleaning Protocols for Cleaning Staff: Are cleaning staff trained on safety protocols and cleaning methods? Will they wear masks and protective gear while cleaning? Will they change gear between tenant spaces?
  4. Cleaning Specifications: If you need additional cleaning services in your demise, how will those be provided?
  5. Air Filtration: Will air filters be changed and will filter material be upgraded to higher filtration and efficiency?

COVID-19 Overlays 

Next, print out a floor plan for your workplace and perform what we call a “COVID-19 Overlay,” both for risk and social distancing/density. The COVID-19 “Risk Overlay” identifies the spaces that provide the highest risk of contamination and creates a roadmap for how to reduce surface transmission through increased cleaning and new behaviour protocols. The COVID-19 “Capacity Overlay” provides options on how to use space to accommodate the workforce in the office using social distancing recommendations. The Capacity Overlay can be compared with the number of people planned to be in the office to help determine areas that can be used.  Click on the links above for embedded examples of existing office floor plans with both Risk and Capacity Overlays and a how-to guide on where to start. 

Recommendations and Best Practices 

Once Capacity and Risk Overlays are determined, agree with the stakeholders the protocols and processes for re-occupancy and communicate to staff the steps that are being taken, as well as the behavioural changes needed to keep the returning employees safe.

Our goal is to help you make a safe transition back into the office and into the AC (After Corona) World.  We have a specialist workplace team that can support you through this process as well as consider longer-term strategies. 

For more information please email

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