As the incessant homeworking/homeschooling juggling act starts to feel rather Groundhog Day-esque, for most small companies a return to the office can’t happen soon enough as the need to crack on and get back to some kind of new normal gathers momentum.
Business will have experienced different situations over the last few months – from some furloughing all staff, to businesses trading fully and staff working from home, to office visits limited to essential workers. As we prepare for a return to the office, 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. Employers should base any plans for returning to the workplace on up-to-date Government and public health guidance in relation to COVID-19 and must safeguard employees’ health and minimise the risk of infection.
Although in the UK social distancing has been reduced to 1+ metres, this only applies where 2 metres is impractical.
The Health and Safety Executive has published advice and guidance relating to COVID-19 on its website. Meanwhile the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM), in collaboration with organisations including the CIPD and mental health charity Mind have produced a toolkit to help employers plan a return to the workplace in a way that manages risk alongside their legal obligations.
In summary you should 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, the CIPD advises. Make sure employees are clear about what rules and procedures they should follow both in the workplace and at home, especially if they begin to feel unwell.
All of the key protection and hygiene measures will continue to apply to minimise the spread of infection. They include reminding staff about regular and effective handwashing, and providing hand sanitiser. You may want to review your cleaning arrangements, for example, to ensure that all phones and keyboards are wiped daily with anti-viral cleaner. If in doubt, you can refer to the Government guidance for more information.
Be mindful too of the psychological impact the pandemic will undoubtedly have had on staff
Be mindful too of the psychological impact the pandemic will undoubtedly have had on staff; whether it’s anxiety about the health crisis or social isolation due to the lockdown, challenging domestic situations or financial concerns. Regardless of individuals’ experiences, people will inevitably still need to adjust to working in a shared environment with colleagues.
It has certainly been a challenging few months and things won’t likely be back to the way they were for some time yet but we wish you all the best as the new normal starts to bed in. From the bottom of our hearts, it’s good to be back.