No one is sure exactly when the lockdown will end, or how it will work when everyone starts to head back to the office again. With many businesses slowed down to a crawl, it may seem like there’s not much to do in preparation of the lockdown ending. However, now is the best time to start planning for ways help everyone return safely to work at the office.
Creating a plan isn’t only about how everyone heads back to the office. You’ll also need to consider personnel safety, meeting government requirements and advice, and more. It is necessary to develop a strategy and methods to manage the workplace, while also avoiding employer liability risks with the return to work.
We’ll walk you through this process one step at a time, so you’ll be able to develop a logical plan that meets the needs of your unique business. Let’s get started.
Create a Planning Team
Before you get into the nitty gritty details for the return to work, it’s imperative to first set up a planning team. The team should include leaders in the company, who represent crucial departments. These include human resources, the legal department, IT, operations, along with health and safety. In addition, various representatives from the employees should be included on the team.
Other important team members may also include advisors from outside the company to offer insights and guidance on health and office layout and design.
When the planning is completed, it’s also advisable to keep the team together. They will be able to monitor any issues and problems that arise during the return to work and take action before things get out of hand. This is crucial, as Covid-19 will more than likely still be in the environment, and if a problem comes up, it must be dealt with quickly to keep infections and other issues to a minimum.
Developing a Flexible Return to Work Plan
Each company is unique and will need its own return to work plan. In addition, if your company has more than one location, it may be necessary to draw up plans to each location, as each place will have its own issues.
The most crucial considerations when creating the back to work plan include:
- Workplace location
- Number of personnel returning to work at each location
- The need to enforce social distancing and meet government requirements
- If employees will need to rely on public transport to get back to work
Because of the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus when it comes to government orders and more, it’s a good idea to build a flexible return to work plan. No one knows what the situation will be like when lockdown ends. Though it looks like we’ll still be dealing with Covid-19. In that case, there could be localised infections, which could mean a fast change in regulations and guidelines from the government.
How to Prepare the Workplace for Employees’ Return
Government Guidance & Recommendations
As the situation continues to change, the government has put together some advice and recommendations on how business should make the return to work. Here’s an overview of their advice and recommendations, which you can find on their site: GOV.uk.
1). Businesses need to remember they have a legal requirement to ensure the health and safety of their employees.
2). Businesses should weigh the risks of employees heading back to the office and use the government’s recommendations on how to keep everyone safe.
3). When possible, working from home should still be considered, as long as the virus remains.
4). Employers must consult with each employee about their work, and health issues that may prevent their return to the office, as well as what is needed to ensure their safety in the workplace.
5). To reduce the risks of Covid-19 infection, every business must enforce increased hand-washing and cleaning of surfaces. Social distancing must be followed for those who must return to the office. This means each person must be kept at least 2m apart whenever possible.
6). The use of screens and barriers is recommended to help separate employees, as well as using back-to-back or side-to-side placement where possible. In addition, keeping the number of people each employee comes into contact with is recommended. The government suggests that using “fixed” teams or partners could aid social distancing.
Using a Phased Approach
In addition, the government recommends using a phased approach to bring employees back to the office. This means bringing employees back in phases, so not everyone returns back to work at the same time.
It may also be helpful to use flexible working hours and create new flexible work schedules so not everyone is in the office or at the work location at once. This all works to reduce the number of people at the workplace at any specific time, which helps to reduce infection rates when fewer people are in the office at the same time.
Additional methods can include the use of employee flows into and out of office. For instance, creating a one-way flow, with fixed entries and exits.
The government is also recommending that employees be discouraged from using public transport. Instead, the company can provide transport to work and back home through the use of company vehicles.
All of these recommendations are methods you can use to infection rates of Covid-19 at the office. For more in-depth information, please refer to the GOV.uk site.
Response and Monitoring Plans
Once people have returned to work, it will be necessary to monitor the workplace to watch for possible infections of Covid-19. This is another reason it’s a good idea to keep the number of people in the office to a minimum.
In addition, your monitoring and response plan should include how the business will continue functioning in case a number of employees are out sick. It’s also a good idea to choose employees who are ale to perform multiple jobs, as well as cross-training employees on essential business functions.
Of course, there should be more to your plan, but these are the highlights of what should be included in your company’s return to work plan. Covid-19 is making life and work difficult for everyone; with everything so uncertain, having a flexible plan in place can ensure your business continues to function and thrive even through the coronavirus pandemic.