Returning to Work After Covid-19
It feels like a life time ago when going into a place of work was the norm and not working from bedrooms, sofas or the kitchen table. Now that lockdown measures are being gradually relaxed, now is the time for business to plan for a safe return of their employees.
The transition back to the workplace is going to take time and will perhaps never be the same as it was at the turn of the year. Our lifestyles have changed, we communicate differently, socially interact at a distance, and our expectations of safety have changed. The workplace will have to change as employers have a new responsibility to provide a safe and hygienic working environment.
Many of us are experiencing heightened anxiety surrounding our interactions with others as we get used to the “new norm”.
As we kick start working in offices once again, here are our three key steps to actively engage employees while keeping a safe, hygienic work environment to work in.
Flexibility in attending the office
Ensuring that social distancing is kept, having the whole office back at the same time won’t work. However, there are going to be times when you need certain people or teams back at the same time – engage with your teams to understand which teams needs to be back together and for how long.
You should consider providing staggered start / finish times, alternating the days for teams to be in, agree on-site and remote days. This method of dividing up the workforce will keep the office capacity at a minimum while limiting contact with others.
Having a flexible approach of where employees work is key. Many of us, continue to have family responsibilities or health concerns, so it is important for employers to take these into consideration with their return to work plans.
We have become used to using Zoom or MS Teams meetings over the last few months, so a blended approach of being in the office and remote working will allow people to become used to coming back to the office.
Speak with your employees to understand their concerns and work with them to ensure that these are addressed where possible.
Manage the workspace
Not all office environments will lend themselves immediately to safe working practices, so consider the following:
Arrange for face masks and gloves to be available for employees
Managing the number of people allowed within a meeting room at any one time
Close small meeting / huddle rooms where there is not enough distance between chairs or those without a window to open
Rearrange the desk space to ensure that there are 2m of distance between them. If this not possible, tape off alternative desks so that they cannot be used
Provide cleaning products so that all surfaces can be cleaned / wiped during the day
Arrange for more frequent office cleaning to be completed and deep clean on a regular basis
Increase the amount of ventilation in the office space – open window where possible or increase the amount of fresh air is pumped into the office
Talk, Communicate and Adapt
We are all in a new era and we need to accept that we don’t know all the answers. It is important that we continue to communicate with our employees on what the business is doing to ensure the safety of the workforce.
This doesn’t mean just sending out an email informing the employees what has been done. Employers need to speak to their teams about what is happening and taking their feedback and ideas on board as the re-integration of the work force starts.
Plans need to be agile and adapt to the needs of not just the business but the people who work there as well.
Visual posters and updating the desktop images are a great way to inform and encourage workplace safety and is a positive method of enforcing new rules.
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Disclaimer – The contents of this blog post do not constitute legal advice and are provided for general information purposes only. We can only advise on the basis of specific client instructions and are unable to offer legal advice by email to anyone who are not our clients. To find out more about becoming a client of Lodge Court please talk to us.