Returning To The Workplace During Coronavirus
We offer below a brief understanding of the important areas for consideration from companies looking to return to the workplace, whilst looking after their staff in the process. There are many published Government resources available to you to ensure you handle this in the correct way and we have provided the appropriate links below.
How you manage a return to the workplace will depend on the type of closure arrangements you have been operating. The 3 most prevalent types are:
- Business not trading at all (all staff furloughed)
- Business trading on a limited basis (some staff furloughed, some working from home or in company premises) or where only ‘essential’ workers are currently in work
- Business trading fully but all staff working from home.
Whichever of these is closest to your individual business, there are some common issues you will need to address:
- All workplaces need to observe the Government’s social distancing guidance which seems highly likely to continue for some time to come. All staff who can work from home are expected to carry on doing so.
- Where businesses are part of a staggered or sectoral return to the workplace, employers must consider detailed risk management approaches to safeguard employees’ health and minimise the risk of infection. It’s therefore essential that employers continue to base any plans for returning to the workplace on up-to-date Government and public health guidance in relation to COVID-19.
- Given that the priority for every business is managing a safe return to the workplace for staff, it’s crucial to work in close collaboration with your health and safety and occupational health teams wherever possible. Communicate the practical measures you are taking to staff on a regular basis to help reassure them that their health, well-being and safety is your top priority.
- You will need to review your workplace and consider – can staff maintain a 2m physical distance between each other? How will you manage meetings, interviews and other interactions? What about communal areas such as canteens or kitchen areas?
- All of the key protection and hygiene measures will continue to apply to minimise the spread of infection, such as reminding staff about regular and effective handwashing, and providing hand sanitiser. If your premises have been closed for a period of time, you should consider carrying out a deep-clean before reopening. You should therefore review your cleaning arrangements, for example ensuring all phones/keyboards etc are wiped daily with anti-viral cleaner. You can refer to the Government guidance for more information.
- Depending on your working environment, you may need to consider providing additional PPE, including gloves, masks or anti-viral hand gel. If you want people to wear gloves or masks, then you will also need to think about training and briefing staff on their correct usage – since both can be ineffective if used inappropriately. Information is available on the Government website.
- Staff who travel or visit other company premises may also need additional equipment or briefing. Remote meeting facilities and video-conferencing should be encouraged wherever possible to minimise the need for staff to travel and/or use public transport.
- The risks to people’s health from this pandemic are psychological as well as physical. These include anxiety about the ongoing health crisis and fear of infection, as well social isolation due to the lockdown. Some members of staff may have concerns about travelling and socially distancing on public transport.
- It will be vital to have a re-orientation or re-induction process for returning staff. Encourage and support every manager to have a one to one return meetings with every employee, where a key focus is on health, safety and well-being. M
- Finally, it will be important for every employer to ensure that the organisation culture is inclusive, and that every employee feels they are returning to a supportive and caring environment.
If you are looking for support with handling the potential fall out from the Covid-19 crisis, please do get in touch with us.