While the UK Government has stated that those who can work from home should continue to do so for as long as possible, it has also reinforced the message that if people are unable to work from home, they should be encouraged to go to work – provided they can follow the now familiar health and social distancing guidelines which have been drummed into us all from March.
It is time to plan for when things start returning back to normal – whatever normal will be. Returning to work after Covid-19 will be different and will take some adapting to but with the right guidelines in place, is very much doable, with a positive outcome for all.
Health and Safety Implications
Employers must make the workplace as safe as possible for staff, customers and anyone else who visits. To do this employers must encourage staff to work from home, wherever possible, do a ‘risk assessment’ to identify what might cause harm and take reasonable steps to prevent and in all instances follow the government guidelines on working safely during coronavirus on GOV.UK.
Employers need to plan now for what is likely to be staged return to the workplace. Their guiding principle should be how organisations care for their people and safeguard their health and well-being.
Many workers will be concerned and anxious about being in the workplace or travelling there. They will want to know that their organisation is retaining their support for physical and mental health and its current thinking about flexible and remote working. This should be at the heart of any decisions and plans that organisations make.
Communication is key, a need to be involved and reassured will be at the forefront of any employees fears and worries. Returning to work after Covid-19 will be stressful for some, and mental well being will be paramount, to alleviate the apprehension of a new way of working and living.
Employers will need to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place. The results of the risk assessment should be shared with the workforce. Employers should consider publishing the results of their risk assessments on their website if possible, and all businesses with over 50 employees are expected to do so.
A hesitant workforce
Not all will embrace the change to return. Everyone will have a different experience of this pandemic and will have different fears. Some workers will gladly head back to their offices and places of business, while others will do so with trepidation. Some people may have lost loved ones or know someone who got sick, so it will hit close to home.
Others may have anxiety about returning to work safely; or about finding safe daycare for their children, who are not returning to school. Others will be tired of being at home and will welcome the opportunity to go about life as if nothing is happening.
Employers should recognise that many people will naturally be nervous about leaving lockdown and increasing their risk of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19). If an employee is reluctant to return to the workplace, the employer should explore their reasons and try to address any specific concerns they have, taking their individual circumstances into account.
Crisis situations affect people differently, for more information on returning to work after Covid-19 and how these different issues should be approached, please contact us here or call us on 03333 660567.