As businesses start to plan towards reopening in part or in full, they must be mindful of the current advice and restrictions that are designed to keep their staff and clients safe. Considerations must include their safety, health and wellbeing.
Following lockdown, many people will feel confused, worried, and apprehensive about getting back into their workplace. Businesses will need to consider a wide range of adjustments to the way their people will be required to work and how their workplace will look and function alongside complying with Government restrictions.
Helping your staff transition back into the workplace will be important and the following tips will help you start to think about their return and what you will need to consider:
- Be Understanding – You need to remember that returning to the workplace after lockdown might be just as challenging for some employees as when they initially swapped the workplace for home. Working from home has become the new normal for many and despite that we are all feeling desperate to get back to some sort of normal, it does not mean that returning to work will be easy. Engage with your staff and ask them what they might need to make them feel safe at work. Give your staff the opportunity to raise any concerns they may have and make sure you address these concerns.
- Communication – It is likely your workplace is going to look and feel very different when your staff return, with changes needed to keep everyone safe and to meet the Government’s new guidelines. Keeping your workforce informed of these changes is incredibly important. You need to be clear about what is expected of them in terms of social distancing and hygiene maintenance. Tell them how your everyday business practices will change. Ideally you need to communicate this to them now, so that there won’t be any surprises when they do return.
- Government Guidance – The Government introduced COVID-19 guidelines for all UK employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating as safely as possible (COVID-19 Secure guidelines). The documents have been developed in consultation with large number of different types of businesses including, unions, industry leaders as well as devolved administrations.
- Your workplace set up – For many businesses opening their doors again will mean that things are likely to look very different, social distancing and wearing masks will still be in place for many months to come. Your workplace may have been closed for a time and you will need to ensure that your facilities are also safe and fully functioning. Compliance Standard Group have produced an updated free checklist for opening up your premises following lock down. This document details the key areas that business owners need to consider before re-opening their premises and bringing their staff back to work. What could you do to help your staff and customers to keep their distance? Consider introducing a rota so less staff are working from the same work area at once, rearranging working space so they are two metres apart, create a one-way system to move around for staff and customers, displaying posters and floor stickers to remind everyone to keep their distance and to wear a mask.
- Home Working – If your staff can continue to work from home then they should do so for the foreseeable future. If they cannot work from home, could your business continue to access any of the Government’s Support Schemes? This may give you time to put the necessary safety measures in place and to implement a phased return to work for everyone.
- Staff Health and Wellbeing – Your staff’s experience of lockdown may vary from person to person. It may have been stressful for some as they worked to keep the business afloat, demanding for parents working and home schooling and for others it may be isolating and lonely. Some of your staff could be still recovering from the effects of a Covid-19 infection and their state of health may affect their ability to get back to work or even continue with their current role. Considering alternative work roles for these staff and giving them support to get back to work can give a positive message to all your staff. Offering access to counselling and other health and wellbeing initiatives has never been more important. Back to work discussions may also help identify which staff need further help.
- Flexibility – Pre-coronavirus you may have had shift schedules in place, but lockdown has shown that not everyone delivers their best work on a nine-to-five schedule. You may have given your staff more flexibility to manage their own lockdown schedule, especially if they have had children or other dependents to care for. Some people may have been more productive in the morning and others at night-time or by splitting their shift. If you feel you have got more out of your employees by offering flexible working hours, then why not continue to do so post lockdown?
- Company Culture – With your staff having to work in isolation or furloughed, team spirit is could be low. Or you may have a workforce who have shined during lockdown by working together in the face of adversity. Either way, it has been a stressful time for everyone and now is a good time to help your colleagues get back on track or to harness the entrepreneurial spirit they have continued to show during lockdown. Building team spirit may be a challenge while social distancing is still in place, but that shouldn’t stop you looking at ways of bringing everyone together remotely.
There’s no doubt that another lockdown has been an incredible challenge for all businesses but, like in all times of crisis, there are many positives too. All our workplaces have changed during the past year and they may never go back to how they were before COVID-19 struck. Taking time to reflect on how your business and staff were impacted by lockdown, both positive and negative can help decide how best you can adapt your business to be successful post Covid-19 lockdown.
At the Compliance Standard Group, we believe the best way to get business back on track during the COVID-19 pandemic is to carry out a suitable and sufficient Risk Assessment of all its people based activities. Many businesses will be starting to plan their return and many things will need to be considered before allowing their employees to return safely.
Compliance Standards Group have produced an updated checklist to assist business owners with their planning, and we are offering it for free:
If you have questions about using the check list or need support to ensure you open up safely for customers and staff, please call our team of experts on 01242 323864.