Novus Blog

clothes at a store


The announcements made by Boris Johnson at the end of May were perhaps the most far reaching to date. Amongst them, the news that those retailers deemed ‘non-essential’ could reopen their doors on 15th June 2020. No doubt welcome news to business owners but what measures will they be implementing to keep their staff and customers safe from Covid-19? Readjusting the wheel, not reinventing it Although these non-essential stores are reopening their doors on 15th June, supermarkets and DIY retailers have been open throughout the lockdown period. As such retail owners aren’t really starting from a blank canvas when considering what measures to put in place. After an initial deep clean to make the space suitable for human occupation, common adaptations that have so quickly become part of our everyday lives: the 2 metre distance* markings on the floor, the clear plastic screens at the checkouts, the one-way systems around the store, sanitisation stations, and more frequent cleaning regimes etc. will readily transfer into almost any retail environment.  Careful planning into the reconfiguration of their premises to accommodate these systems might however present the first significant challenge. Considering that the majority of retail units in the UK are under 1000 square feet, the supermarket model will need to be miniaturised down from the (typically) 20,000 – 60,000 square foot system. Need help with your retail space adjustments? Give Novus a call or email us >> Controlling occupancy In accordance with social distancing rules at present, where practically possible, each person in the store will always need to be 2 metres* apart. When you factor in merchandise, display units, and only one route around the shop, the available space might become rather tight. Marks & Spencer and Ikea have already said that they will impose restrictions on the numbers of customers entering their stores and we can expect to see very tight controls on the amount of people allowed in the shop at any given time across the board. Perhaps the one-in-one-out policy that we’ve seen from smaller retailers during lockdown, would be adopted at entrances to shops and shopping centres. As everyone else will have to wait their turn outside the store (socially distanced of course), this presents an issue for passing foot traffic. Councils such as Cardiff City are considering extending pavements and removing pavement furniture to help pedestrians stay the 2 metre* distance away from the people queuing to get into shops. It may also be worthy of note that there is increasing pressure to move from the 2 metre* separation to a 1 metre gap, which mirrors the guidance from WHO and the approach adopted by other countries. The calls to adopt this change are currently loudest from the hospitality and leisure sectors, and would almost certainly be welcomed by those retailers struggling for floor space. Clarification on this matter may well be forthcoming from the government before the 15th June. Virutal queuing Could technology provide an answer to the issue of street overcrowding outside stores in the form of virtual queuing? If you’ve ever visited Disney World on a peak day or walked into a restaurant without a reservation on a Saturday evening and been handed a buzzer, you’ve probably already been part of a virtual queue. How does it work? Well, instead of customers waiting in long queues, they would be given their position in a virtual queue and alongside a wait time estimate. Depending on the sophistication of the system, they might be able to track their position in the queue in real-time on a mobile phone app. This way, the customer can run other errands or visit different stores whilst they wait their turn. Supermarket giant Asda has already launched such a system. Customers login to the queue via their mobile phone and wait in their cars to enter stores. Will my temperature be checked? Many businesses that have returned to work following the easing of lockdown measures have mandating temperature checking for their employees (Novus have done this on their construction sites already) Whilst retailers are set to implement the same controls on their workforce, are some even considering testing customers before allowing them to enter their premises? The answer is yes. Two weeks ago (at time of writing), global technology giant Apple became the first major retailer in America to require customers to have their temperature checked before entry and it is reported that other retailers are considering the move. With the 15th June reopening date fast approaching, it remains to be seen whether UK retailers will opt to include this in their own covid-secure safeguards. Click and collect Of course, online shopping and click & collect has been on the rise for some time before the Covid-19 outbreak. And, there is a feeling that this method of shopping might see an increase as consumers might opt for click and collect to reduce their potential exposure to Covid-19. For this method to be a safe and appealing option to the customer, there would need to be a contactless way of collecting their items without having to wait in line. This might therefore see increased usage of facilities such as the Amazon locker either outside the store or with a separate entrance. Don't try before you buy In the interest of getting customers back through the door, there seems likely to be an unavoidable trade-off in customer experience. For the most part, the notion of ‘try before you buy’ is temporarily suspended as clothes shops close their changing rooms and close contact areas such as make-up booths in department stores remain closed. Other retailers are attempting to find ways around the problem. Shoe retailer Kurt Geiger are planning to quarantine all shoes that have been tried-on for a period of 24 hours and similarly, books that have been touched and unpurchased from Waterstones will also undergo quarantine for 72 hours. Novus in retail As a business, we are trusted by some of the biggest names in retail to carry out their in-store works. Novus are well equipped to help your business navigate these uncertain times with our range of Covid-Secure services and adaptations, as well our usual plethora of retail services. Contact us today to see how we can help you >> *Update: Since this article was written, the 2 metre social distancing rule was relaxed to a 1 metre+, which came into effect on 4th July.
laptop working from home


When lockdown measures are relaxed sufficiently to enable workers to return to offices, ‘Business as Usual’ is undoubtedly set to take on a different form. In the short term, working from home has become the ‘new normal’, but is remote working actually here to stay? Working from home In recent times, the question of remote working or ‘working from home’ has been well debated and in many ways, the lockdown has thrown this issue into sharp relief. Amongst the many questions that businesses are facing at the moment is whether remote working is a viable permanent option for them. Engaging with our people Throughout the lockdown, we have been continually communicating with our Novus colleagues to reinforce a sense of community. One of the ways in which we have done this is through the “Helping Hand”, our weekly internal newsletter that (to name just a few features) provides motivational tips, updates from our people around the business, and useful updates.     In addition, we surveyed our colleagues via our ‘Pulse Survey’ to gain a measure on how our people were coping with lockdown life. As part of the survey we asked our colleagues who are working from home: “Coronavirus resulted in some of us having to work from home and working differently than we normally do. How did this impact the way you worked?” 1.       I felt I worked more effectively at home than when I’m in the office 2.       I felt I worked less effectively at home than when I’m in the office 3.       I felt that there was no difference The results were quite conclusive. Nearly one third (31%) of the colleagues surveyed indicated that they were more productive when working from home. Just over half (55%) of the respondents felt that there was no difference and 14% suggested they were more productive in the office. These outcomes suggest that in terms of personal perception, 86% of Novus colleagues felt that they were at least as productive working from home compared to working in the office. An increasing trend It is clear even before the Covid-19 outbreak that working from home was on the rise in the UK, with numbers increasingly sharply over the last decade. Facilitated by improving technology, effective video conferencing software, faster internet speeds, and generally an ever more digitally connected population, the conditions have never been better for remote working. The 31% of Novus colleagues who felt they worked more effectively at home, are amongst a growing number. Increasingly, there is a consensus that working from home does seem to improve productivity where effective remote working strategies are adopted (see our top 5 tips for working from home article). Advocates cite the reduction in stress, fewer distractions, and relaxed environment as potential sources of their productivity level output. Of course, Individual differences and approaches to work are always going to play a significant part. As one source suggests, “If you are an unproductive person in the office, then it’s unlikely to change when you work from home” (Regus) and vice versa. From a cost perspective In light of the costs associated with making Covid-secure adaptations to offices, one can easily make an argument for the financial benefit. Investments in temperature checking devices, desk partitioning, and additional hygienic facilities will be certainly be required in the immediate term, that’s without mentioning the overheads of heating, water, and electricity. (You can read about what the post-lockdown office might look like here) To a small business (or certainly to one that is suffering financially), these cost savings could make a big difference. Additionally, there are the significant changes to the daily routine to consider. Compliance with social distancing measures might involve movement restrictions, staggered break times, and reduced capacity – all of which are new policies that will require some time to become habit. In that same vein, in small offices where social distancing is going to present a significant challenge, allowing at least a portion of the workforce to work from home on a consistent basis, will help to alleviate spacing issues. A blow to company culture? A healthy organisational culture is all about its people and the way they interact, collaborate, and communicate with each other. It is potentially one of the areas that might suffer if working from home was to become a permanent fixture of the ‘new normal. Particularly where close working relationships or friendships are concerned, there has been a considerable amount of research to suggest that face-to-face interaction is important for maintaining relationships. Thus the sense of community within an organisation might be diminished and an even greater effort to maintain those ties over virtual media will be needed. Technology giants making their move In recent weeks, Twitter and Facebook have announced that they will allow their employees to work from home permanently (should they wish to). As is often the case, big players within “technology” have been quick to move on this issue; keen to uphold their brand image as innovators and forward thinkers. One size never fits all Whatever business leaders ultimately decide to do post-Covid-19, it can be certain that there will be vast differences between individual organisations and sectors. It should be recognised that some people cannot work from home by the nature of the job or their access to/familiarity with technology, others (like our 14%) would not be in favour. It remains to be seen whether a consensus can be reached on the matter in our industry and as a business. What we can be sure of though, is our continuing effort to engage our colleagues in order to find our ‘new normal’. Watch this space. Join the conversation Do you have a view on the discussion? We’d love to hear it. Please leave a comment on our social media post on LinkedIn and Facebook.
boardroom greyscale


For those of us working from home at the moment, going into the office every day may already seem like a distant memory. However, with lockdown measures beginning to ease, in this article we are turning our attention to what the post-lockdown office might look like. Empty buildings As a response to Government advice, on 23rd March 2020, many offices (including Novus) closed their doors and have been stood abandoned ever since. Whilst working from home for many businesses is proving to be effective in the short term, it may not be a viable long-term option. There is little doubt that the outbreak of Covid-19 has changed how we will work and interact with colleagues within the office environment for a long time to come (perhaps even permanently). And, when office workers do eventually return, the initial deep clean and physical adaptations of the building might just be the tip of the iceberg. Segregation of the workforce To comply with social distancing, semi-permanent measures to keep employees apart are going to be first and foremost in the thinking of office planners. In an ideal scenario, workstations will be reconfigured to ensure that the minimum 2 metre gap* between colleagues is maintained and hot desking will be abandoned to limit potential spread. Clearly, this could present a challenge for a number of businesses who simply lack the office space or require extensive reconfiguration in order to implement such adaptations. In these circumstances 3 solutions spring to mind: 1. Provide physical barriers between colleagues in the form of Perspex (or similar) screens akin to those seen at the checkouts of any given UK supermarket at present. The reception area will certainly need to have this feature in place regardless. 2. Set up 2m workstations and rota the workforce so that only a fraction of colleagues have access to the office at any given time. The other colleagues will continue to work from home. 3. Continue the status quo of having the workforce work from home and only use the office when a face-to-face meeting is preferred or deemed essential. Novus have extensive experience in refitting, refurbishing, and reconfiguring working office environments. We can help create physical barriers between office workstations and assist with planning, contact us today to make an enquiry >> Monitoring body temperature Novus have already successfully implemented temperature checks on construction sites and this measure looks set to become a feature of the daily office routine post-lockdown. For good reason too, as one of the main symptoms of the Covid-19 infection is a body temperature greater than 37.8 degrees Celsius, this is a simple precaution to prevent potentially infected colleagues from entering the premises. Whilst our sites have been using infra-red guns to check temperatures on arrival, some larger offices and organisations have also been considering installing thermal cameras to monitor their workforce. Sanitising regularly Permanent sanitisation fixtures at all entrances and exits are likely to become a mainstay of the new office environment. The Covid-19 prevention strategy has always been centred around keeping hands as clean as possible through regular hand washing and sanitation, so having these dispensers installed throughout the building a relative ‘no-brainer’. Employers might choose to issue their employees with their own supply of hand sanitiser at the start of every week as further encouragement to keep those hands clean. Furthermore, we could see each desk issued with cleaning supplies so that regular sanitising of phones, keyboards, and mice takes place throughout the day. Plus, sharing of stationary is obviously big no-no (bad news for pen/pencil stealers). Touchless doors and facilities As door handles provide a potential surface touch point for the spread of coronavirus, office planners might opt to replace their doors with handleless or automatic solutions where possible. Pushing the door with your body rather than your hand, removes that touch point. Additionally and particularly in high traffic areas such as the bathrooms, adaptations such as sensor activated taps will be preferred over handled models, in addition to touchless soap dispensers and hand dryers. Cross-traffic reduction measures The restriction of movement throughout the building to minimise the occurrence of close interactions should be expected. This is particularly the case for offices with narrow corridors and stairwells. One-way systems and departmental isolation (i.e. no physical contact between colleagues sitting in different departments) are likely to be measures to be introduced in many offices. Even the way we eat at work will change. Set break/lunch times and socially distanced canteens (or even the complete closure of) are changes that minimise cross-traffic in the office environment. Bringing lunch and drinks from home will be encouraged and potentially enforced by new rules and communal hot drink stations, at least for the time-being, will likely disappear. Bring a flask with your hot drink to work instead. Tighter controls on visitors and meetings Mandatory site inductions and Covid-19 safety briefings akin to those seen on Novus construction sites, are almost certainly going to be a requirement for visitors to the office. Alongside the compulsory temperature checks for every person on-site, visitors will be required to call ahead and arrange allocated appointment times. It stands to reason that; tighter scheduling controls will assist in keeping offices at safe occupancy levels. Novus can help We are committed to helping businesses and offices reopen safely as lockdown measures begin to ease. For more information about the range of services we can provide, please contact us or visit our Covid-Secure web page. *Update: Since time of writing the 2 metre social distancing rule has been relaxed to 1 metre + in the UK
Stop coronavirus sign at novus site


A month on from reopening many of our new-build construction sites, we are taking a look at what measures have been put in place to keep colleagues and clients Covid-Secure.   Getting back to work safely Of our phased reopening plan Lee Hartley, operations director at Novus, said: “The safety of everyone involved in our building and maintenance projects is always the top priority for us." “We’re confident that, by following the government’s guidance around social distancing measures, adapting our working practices accordingly and providing our colleagues with the necessary personal protective equipment, we’re playing our part in keeping people safe at work and delivering building projects across the country.” So with that said, what do these new Covid-Secure working practices look like? Reconfiguration of site parking Upon arrival to any reopened Novus construction site, you will quickly notice that the parking bays have been reconfigured so that every other space is used. This measure ensures that there is a safe 2m gap between each person as they exit their vehicle and as such, social distancing is maintained from the off. Additionally, having colleagues actively participating in social distancing measures from the minute they arrive, sets the tone for their whole experience whilst working on site. Robust and plentiful new signage Perhaps the most obvious new measure is the abundance of updated signage in and around the construction site. The new Covid-19 awareness signs serve as a continual reminder to everyone on-site to remain vigilant, stay alert and help control the spread of the virus. It is important that the new signs are not only strategically placed around the construction site to be noticed, but also when designing any new signage, they need to be distinct from other health and safety notices. This is a challenge particularly for construction sites as workers are exposed to an array of signage on a daily basis and it is critical that these messages do not become just white noise. Extending this out to all other workplaces, clear and plentiful signage will be critical to reinforce new procedures until they ultimately become habitual. Whether people have been placed on furlough leave or have been working from home throughout lockdown, returning to any workplace that is implementing Covid-Secure measures is initially sure to feel alien and take a period of adjustment. Temperature checking Before coming onto a Novus work site, everyone must have their body temperature checked. As one of the main symptoms of Covid-19 is the presentation of a high temperature (found in excess of 37.8 degrees Celsius), temperature checking is a necessary precaution that many facilities are likely to adopt post-lockdown. The temperature check at Novus sites are a simple non-invasive procedure (we don’t put a thermometer in your mouth!), with contactless infra-red gun. If you are within the normal, we will be happy to welcome you on-site. Contactless site inductions As has always been the case with visits to a live construction environment, everyone must undergo a health and safety induction before they are allowed onto the site. This would normally involve a face-to-face presentation with the person responsible for health and safety at the work site and a physical orientation. However, to limit the number of people that a visitor comes into contact on-site, Novus now operate contactless inductions with the use of a video presentation instead. Sanitation stations For the foreseeable future at least, any place that accommodates groups of people will likely feature designated areas for sanitation. Whether this be with the installation of temporary hand washing facilities, placing bottles of hand sanitiser around the site, or both. At sites such as the NHS Greater Manchester, Novus have installed additional temporary hand basins for colleagues, to encourage regular hand washing throughout the day or whenever changing tasks. If you are interested in having temporary hand washing facilities installed in your workplace, business, or school, please do get in touch with us >> Social distancing It is truly a sign of the times that implementing social distancing protocol almost goes without saying. Novus have reconfigured the layout and structure of all facilities at our construction sites, from the toilets to the canteens, everything possible has been done to ensure that our colleagues remain the minimum 2 metre distance apart. All work must is planned in advance, shift times are reorganised, and break times are staggered to minimise contact between workers.  Keeping workers safe It is of the utmost importance to Novus to keep everyone safe and we are going above and beyond the guidance set out by the Government. All of the safe working practices that Novus have put into place during the Covid-19 pandemic, are available to view via our web page.  To find out how Novus can assist your organisation in reopening, contact us or visit or Covid-Secure web page for more information.
Hannah O'Brien
Telephone: 07854 781631


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