After almost two months of lockdown, businesses in the UK have been given the green light to open once again with the government now encouraging people to return to work if it’s not possible to work from home.
The work landscape has changed dramatically in the last eight weeks; statistics from the Office of National Statistics show that 67.2% of businesses across all sectors have furloughed at least some members of staff, while millions of others have swapped to remote work. Of those, just three in ten had previous experience of working from home. While working in PJs, unlimited trips to the fridge and no commuting may sound like a dream, the reality is that not everyone is suited to working from home. Research shows that 38% are working longer hours now than they ever did in the office, while others lament the loss of social contact and structure that going in brings.
For many, the thought of going back to work signals the start of a return to normality and the resumption of a regular pay check. It isn’t quite as simple as unlocking the door and settling back in to business as usual though. If you are hoping to bring staff back to the workplace following the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll need to ensure that you meet your legal requirements and do all you can to keep staff safe. Here’s a checklist that will help you do just that.
1. Perform a risk assessment
As an employer or manager, you should be used to performing risk assessments, no matter the type of space your business and staff occupy. Because the coronavirus is so contagious, there’s a lot to think about – a risk assessment gives you a measured, structured way to critically asses the work environment and identify areas of concern so you can make safe in readiness for your staff.
Consider things such as how close together desks are, whether people sit facing each other, potential bottlenecks in communal areas such as corridors and what typically happens when customers or deliveries arrive.
2. Obtain the required materials to make your workplace safe
As we all know, one of the biggest measures implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing. This is especially challenging within most workplaces but there are measures you can take to ensure that adequate distance is maintained between team members.
Your risk assessment will have highlighted where changes need to be made and where potential issues lie. This could mean that you need to rearrange desks for example, to create safer seating plans or, install plastic safety screens in some areas such as those used in supermarkets. You may need to apply floor markings to indicate one-way systems and the two-metre distancing requirement. Place your order for those essential items before you invite staff to return to work as there could be a delay on shipment due to demand.
Don’t forget that you may also need to order PPE for your team too such as disposable gloves.
3. Tackle communal areas
Depending on your place of business, you may need to put special measures in place to deal with communal areas such as locker rooms, mailrooms, staff kitchens, shower and toilet facilities, break rooms and cafeterias. You’ll need to carefully consider how these can be used moving forwards to adhere to government guidelines regarding hygiene and distancing.
4. If you’re in a multi-occupancy building, speak to your landlord
If other tenants share the same building, you’ll need to speak to your landlord or the facility manager to understand what the new rules and requirements are regarding the use of entrances and exits, lifts and stairwells plus any changes to the emergency evacuation procedure.
5. Develop a contingency plan
While measures are being lifted slowly to do everything possible to avoid a repeat wave of infections, it is possible that we’ll see an increase in confirmed cases. If that happens, you’ll need a contingency plan in place to allow for the quick closure of your place of work.
6. Communicate all changes to staff
Any and all changes must be communicated to staff before they are welcomed back to work. It’s worth sending out an email with a detailed breakdown of new procedures and processes as well as outlining requirements for reporting ill health or symptoms of coronavirus.