Although we've seen a relaxation of the restrictions placed on us at the beginning of the pandemic, and a degree of normality returning, a large question mark still hangs over the issue of working in the office once again. There are seemingly two camps: those who are keen on returning to their original place of work, and those who are wary of the ongoing pandemic.
For those returning to work, things likely won't be the same – at least for the foreseeable. The protective measures we've been used to for the past few months – social distancing, prolonged washing of hands, and face masks – will likely continue across a range of businesses and sectors.
For businesses who'll be reopening soon, you'll find an array of guidance on how to help get used to the "new normal" as soon as possible below. From briefing employees and those on furlough to readying the workplace in the appropriate manner, here's everything you need to prepare ahead of your reopening.
Be clear from the outset
Before you bring people back or make changes to your office, planning and preparation are key. Things are likely going to take the form of a staged return to the workplace across many different industry sectors, and it could well be for a longer period of time than is desirable.
Many of your staff – and customers too – will be concerned about returning to the workplace, or even travelling to your place of business. Therefore, there must be some guiding principles to reassure your people you have the right measures in place.
As a result, they'll want to know of your continued support for their physical and mental health, along with any information regarding the following areas:
Crucially, you must bear in mind that the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the workforce underpins this.
Assessing who will return and when
There's a chance that you might not need every member of staff in your place of business straight away, whether this is because the business can function well enough with staff working from home, or simply because there is a slow return to business.
In any event, it may be worth exploring who is initially willing to come back in. If you go with a voluntary system of return, then you should consider the following issues:
If, however, you opt for a mandatory return to work, then you'll have to weigh up the following:
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With the furlough scheme ending in October, employers have a few issues to consider, including the following:
Consider your working hours
You might want to think about staggering individual start and end times to minimise staff commuting at peak travel hours. Encourage staff to use modes of transport that reduce exposure to others, such as walking or cycling.
For those members of staff with long, unavoidable commutes, then it might be worth having them continue to work from home. Prohibiting non-essential work travel is a way of cutting down exposure in an easily avoidable way.
Maintaining safety procedures
The health and safety of your staff should be your top priority. Therefore, employers must think about detailed risk management approaches to safeguard their health and minimise the risk of infection.
It's imperative that your employees are aware of procedures they should follow if they start to feel unwell (in the workplace and at home), and business owners/managers should know their role in managing things should such scenarios arise.
In your review of the workplace, consider the following:
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