As some businesses, offices, and workplaces begin working towards re-opening, either in part or in full, employers must plan for any return to the workplace to be conducted in a way that cares for their people and safeguards their health and wellbeing, both physical and mental.
While employees and workers should be ready to return to work at short notice, employers should be flexible where possible and give a reasonable amount of notice.
Current government advice is to work from home wherever possible, but there are two options:
The government says that the second option should only be explored where working from home isn’t possible or feasible for the business. Instead, employers should look at taking an individualised approach and follow steps to allow staff to work from home as much as they possibly can.
With so much disruption caused by the pandemic, peoples’ expectations around work, how they carry out their work, and how they manage work and domestic responsibilities are likely to have changed dramatically. Therefore, now is an ideal time for employers to think more creatively about effective ways of working and harness more agile working practices that meet the changing expectations of the workforce.
A flexible approach could also help employers develop a closer, more trusting relationship with their people and lead to the development of more effective people management practices, resulting in a boost for productivity.
When it’s not possible to keep your workers at home, the human resources company CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) recommends three key tests before bringing people back to the workplace:
A lot of different factors need to be accounted for, including the size of the workforce, the nature of the workforce, the number of vulnerable staff or those who live with vulnerable people, any caring responsibilities, dependency on public transport, as well as local COVID outbreaks and any relevant local restrictions.
Employers should use a COVID-19 specific risk assessment to assist in their decision-making process, considering the factors referred to here. In addition, employers should account for the feasibility of implementing social distancing—many employers have found that accommodating even half of their staff and adapting their premises for social distancing is highly challenging.
For a successful and safe return to the workplace, employers need to consider detailed risk management approaches in order to sufficiently safeguard the health of their employees and minimise the risk of infection.
Plans should be based on up-to-date government guidelines and public health guidance. It’s also important to remember that the Health and Safety Executive will be conducting random spot checks on businesses operating during the pandemic. The HSE has published its own advice and guidance which employers can use when considering health and safety measures.
A key element to any workplace reopening will be COVID inductions. These are important because they introduce your staff to a brand-new way of working from the office. Every employee returning to the office should go through a COVID induction relevant to their role so that they’re able to carry out their work safely and in accordance with public health and government guidelines (e.g. while socially distanced, wearing PPE, etc.)
The specifics of a COVID induction will vary between businesses and job roles, but many will account for things like:
There’s no set formula for COVID inductions, however, it’s a good idea to draw one up as you’re carrying out relevant risk assessments and drawing up new plans and policies to make sure that you’re covering all bases.
If we’re going to go into a second national lockdown like many people are predicting, this may mean that the government may take the same or a similar approach as they did in March. As such, employers may find themselves being told once more that employees must work from home if they’re able to do so, and that people may only work from sites and workplaces if they cannot perform their job at home.
This position would coincide with the current ‘firebreak’ lockdown in Wales which started on October 23 and is set to finish on November 9, as well as restrictions in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Where returning employees to work is necessary, the core of any plans should be a clear commitment to support remote and flexible working where possible, and the provision of support for physical and mental wellbeing for workers who aren’t able to work from home.
Even if your employees are going to continue working from home, it’s still wise to prepare for their eventual return to the office. Start now to get ahead of the current situation and keep on top of the latest developments more easily. Then, when the time comes, you’ll find it much easier to bring your employees back to the office.
The current lockdown restrictions—which soon may be changed into a full-blown national lockdown—have affected different sectors of the economy and regions of the country in different ways. The changes are also likely to continue to fluctuate as COVID rates do, with stricter measures possibly imposed with very little notice.
The difference between today and March, however, is that there is now plenty of guidance on suggested steps and measures that need to be taken in workplaces. This means that every single employer will need to consider the future and plan appropriately even if they’ve got no immediate plans to relaunch their workplaces and bring employees back in.
Communication with employees has always been and will continue to be key. Keeping your people informed of what the business is doing—regardless of whether it’s good or bad news—will help them make their own decisions and provide some calm and a degree of security in what is a very uncertain time. This will also reinforce thoughts and feelings of being valued and supported, which translates into loyalty and productivity.
If you manage any sort of workplace or office environment and are considering bringing your staff back in, it’s absolutely crucial that you follow the official COVID-19 guidance as issued by the governments and authorities such as the Public Health Authority and Health and Safety Executive. It’s also just as important to provide sufficient handwashing and sanitation tools.
At Hand Sanitiser Station, we sell a range of hand sanitisers and hand sanitation products like gels and dispensers. We sell to both private individuals and businesses that are looking for a one-stop-shop for all their hand sanitation needs.