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Beyond COVID - Advice for employers on returning to work
21 May 2020
As we continue with lockdown, now is the time to begin planning how a physical return to work may look when restrictions are lifted. Your business needs a clear people strategy and re-entry plan that considers foremost the health and wellbeing of your employees, along with the needs of the business.
This article covers four key areas:
- Assessment of the work environment, employees’ wellbeing and their personal circumstances.
- Designing an employee re-entry plan.
- Designing a communication plan.
- Review relevant workforce policies.
1. Assessment of the work environment & employees’ wellbeing
Employers are likely to come under intense scrutiny in how employee wellbeing is managed. As a responsible employer, the most important aspect of planning to reopen the workplace is the company’s attention to health and safety. You should be undertaking a full risk assessment of the workplace now in preparation for a return to work.
Remember that lockdown and isolation will have affected each employee in a different way. We advise employers to check on the perception of safety – even where you have taken all recommended measures to protect your employees, the media along with personal experiences during this pandemic will affect how safe an employee reacts to an ease on lockdown. The response should inform your re-entry plan along with your mental health support.
When considering any re-entry plans, it’s important to determine your employees’ personal circumstances such as childcare, carer responsibilities and travel arrangements (remember, certain types of businesses and services will not reopen until June or July). A successful re-entry plan relies on a collaborative approach that is achievable for all parties.
2. Designing an employee re-entry plan
A thorough assessment today will allow you to better plan for tomorrow. It’s essential for the wellbeing of your employees that you have a clear re-entry plan and that it’s communicated to all employees.
Consider things like:
- Introducing staggered start and finish times to reduce congestion and to reduce the number of people on site and in contact at all times.
- Remote and agile working policies updated.
- Monitoring and changing access points to enable social distancing and reduce congestion.
- Asking all employees to clean their working area, wash or clean their hands before entering or leaving the location.
- Disabling entry systems and facilities that require skin contact e.g. iPads or fingerprint scanners, and communal bins.
- Allowing plenty of space (two metres) between people working on site and partitions between working areas.
- Regular cleaning of common contact surfaces in reception, office, access control and delivery areas e.g. scanners, turnstiles, screens, telephone handsets, desks.
- The use of face masks and disposable items (recyclable).
The style of working changed at a rapid pace during lockdown, proving for many that remote working can be achieved across many business functions. Wherever possible, consider allowing employees to continue to remotely work during the phased re-entry to ensure you minimise the risk to each individual and they feel that as an employer, you are continuing to protect them at all times, whilst getting the business back on track.
3. Designing a communication plan
The key to your re-entry plan working effectively and your employees feeling safe is constant dialogue and communication. Keeping employees informed of progress and changes in policy should be key to ensuring the changes are understood, respected and that employees can voice any personal concerns they have. Now that many businesses have harnessed technology for communication during lockdown, plan how to continue to use this to avoid large gatherings or meetings of people. Your normal medium of communication could change to the betterment of employee wellbeing, productivity, air pollution, engagement and profitability.
4. Review relevant workforce policies
In many businesses there will be a need to review current and relevant policies. These may include:
- Technology & Data.
- Health & Safety.
- Remote Working.
Ensure you review these as soon as possible and communicate any changes to these policies to all your employees.
Working together to meet the needs of employees and the business
The Fortus HR team are already working together with business owners to formulate their COVID re-entry plans, review working policies and advise on the health and wellbeing of employees through clear guidance and communication. If you don’t have a HR function in your own business, why not let us help you return to work effectively and safely and together we can ensure that your business and employees are prepared.