Returning to work

Following that ‘announcement’ from the Prime Minister last Sunday, and further clarification since, we’re all expecting people to gradually begin to return to work over the next while. However what does that mean for employers and employees? What do you need to do to be ready?

Thankfully, other countries have already began this process and we are able to learn from their lessons. Adopting clear and concise safety measures, flexibility and transparency are key to easing the transition for employees returning to the workplace. Health & Safety must remain the top priority in order to keep our teams safe and health as well as regaining their confidence that it’s safe to come back.

The guidelines can be a little daunting so we have compiled some points to hopefully ease the transition into what will become a new ‘normal’ within the workplace – ‘Get comfortable with the uncomfortable’!

1. Focus on Door to Door health and safety of employees

This means providing in-facility safeguards to staff. Where possible, provide masks, hand sanitiser, employee temperature screenings and social distancing. Regular and aggressive cleaning schedules for buildings and facilities. But employees could equally be at risk when they commute, eat lunch or meet clients, so anticipate and respond proactively to such risks.

Some quick wins…

– Ensure social distancing in offices – reduce hot desking, restrict the number of people in meeting rooms, shared spaces and kitchens. Think about reshuffling your floor plans, allow those who can remain working from home to do so and consider staggered opening times to reduce congestion at peak times.

– Distance Assembly line workers – allocate more time between shifts and think about reducing expectations for production because it may take people longer to move around.

– In other countries, mainly Asia, they have started to conduct health & safety checks at entry. This might be a while-off here in the UK, but the future could see us measuring body temperatures when employees arrive and asking for regular health declarations.

catering staff

Waitress with meat dish serving catering table with food snacks during party event

2. Stagger your workforce’s return

I touched on this in the last point but it’s something that will really help. Most companies in other countries have begun returning employees to the workplace in phases. Look at your people, their roles and skills and decide who should return first, who can remain working from home and if necessary, who to remain on furlough.

Also, ask for volunteers. Ask who is happy to return first, those that declare themselves fit and healthy and confident to be back. Similarly, ask who is happy to keep working from home. Remote working isn’t for everyone, but some people thrive on it.

3. Maintain frequent two-way communication.

Leverage all the tools available to you. Use town hall settings if you’re communicating to those already back to site. Emails to the wider teams and intranets if you can. Proactive, frequent and transparent communications about policies and plans, the reasoning behind them and a clear timeline will help employees understand your thinking and ease them through the transition.

Ask for feedback. This is something that we haven’t gone though before so none of us have all the answers. Being felt like their opinion is valued, then employees are much more likely to buy into your plans.


industrail background of caucasian mechanics engineer operating lathe machine for metalwork in metal work factory

4. Plan for a protracted period of disruption

“Get comfortable with the uncomfortable”. What do I mean by that? Basically, be prepared to react and respond repeatedly as things develop.

The back to work process will come in cycles so you may need to repeat and adapt multiple times. Furthermore, make it easier for employees to adapt. Some ways you can do this…

– Provide and update technology, including hardware, software and security.

– Fortify remote working policies. People are likely to be working from home for some time so use what you have learnt over the last couple of months.

– Be flexible. People might need some leeway as they adjust. Some might be weary or even scared and might need time to fully get back into the swing of things.

Remember, as I said, none of us have gone though any of this before… none of us know all the answers. If you find yourself struggling, unsure or feel like you need some advice, please just pick up the phone. We’re talking to lots of businesses over all industries who are going through this so might just have the answer you’re looking for…

Got a question?
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