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As we all think about what coming out of lockdown might mean, businesses are thinking about the workplace post-lockdown. The question is, how to do it. Returning to work isn’t going to be the same for every business and some may even remain closed. What changes will you need to make to your workplace post-lockdown? How can you reduce the risk to staff and practice social distancing?

What do I need to do?

Although the government hasn’t officially announced a post-lockdown proposal for business, some theories are already being discussed. There will be a number of factors to consider, such as; physical building changes, how staff work and how returning to work will affect them.

We’ve outlined some ideas for your workplace post-lockdown below.

Before you re-open

Deep cleaning – If your building has been closed for a prolonged period, then a professional deep-clean can reduce the risk of infection for users. One method, used by airlines to deep-clean the planes, is a sanitising fogging system. It can clean and disinfect all surfaces quickly, with minimal disruption. No need to move the furniture.

Enter and exit – Think about how people will enter and exit the building. Adding hand sanitiser at the entrance and at common touch points could help. If possible, designate one doorway to entrance only. If that’s not possible, clear signage and arrows will be needed to remind people about social distancing.

Movement around the building – To ensure people are moving around the building and observing social distancing, markings on the walls and floor may help. Arrows to indicate direction of travel and reminders to leave a two-metre gap, for example.

Does everyone need to return? – Think about whether some staff members can continue to work from home for a longer period. Could you group staff so that only limited numbers are in at any one time? We now know how technology enables many of us to work from home. So, if the role allows it, continued home working could be a temporary solution.

Staggered start times – Perhaps one way to limit the number of people in your workplace is to stagger the start and finish times. Instead of everyone starting at 9am, could it work to have people start between 8 and 11?

Protecting staff

Hot desking – If your workplace uses hotdesks, meaning people don’t have a fixed desk, you should consider a policy change. Allowing people to sit at the same desk each day, minimises the risk of cross contamination.

Social distancing – The government is all too aware that keeping two metres apart from each other is going to be impossible for some workplaces. If you are able to observe this then measures should be taken now. Less people in an office means it’s easier to keep a two-metre distance. Perhaps don’t use middle desks, for example. In retail environments, perhaps less staff. In manufacturing environments, this is going to be more challenging. Think about how screens could separate workers or if protective equipment or different shift patterns may be needed.

Regular cleaning – Now is the time to ramp up regular cleaning of your workplace. Surfaces, especially desks, phones and keyboards, and touch points, such as doors, need to be regularly sanitised. And you should remind staff to adhere to regular and effective hand washing. Hand sanitiser can also be supplied as an additional aid to limit the risk of infection.

Group areas – If you are going to allow staff back to your workplace, you will need to think about how social distancing and touch points can be managed in shared areas. Places such as toilets, kitchens, meeting rooms and breakout areas, will need thought in order to reduce the risk of infection.

Additional protection – If your workplace is customer facing or has a reception area, consider additional protection for your staff. Perhaps a screen could be placed at reception or any till areas?

Mental health of workers post-lockdown

Some of us will be itching to get back to work as soon as possible but be mindful that others may now be fearful of leaving home. A return to work needs to work for everyone. There is a lot of anxiety around health, money and job security. As a business, it’s important to recognise the different challenges staff may be facing and how you can support them.

Reassurance – It’s important to communicate the plan to return to work as early as possible. Reassure staff that if they are not able to return to work yet, they can continue to work from home. Issues around a lack of childcare, being or living with a vulnerable person and anxiety about leaving home or using public transport, are all causes of anxiety.

Mental health provision – If possible, let staff know how to access counselling services. Perhaps your business has private medical insurance and there are counselling services with that. If not, make sure people know they can come to you if they have concerns or are advised of the professional mental health bodies, such as Mind.

Long-term changes to your business

There may be businesses that simply decide bigger changes need to be made. If you’re a retailer then you may have to offer some services online for a while longer, for example. Be flexible and remember that you’re not operating in the same world as you were before.

Changes to the current lockdown and a return to work are likely to be slow. But, having discussions with staff early and communicating the plan is vital. It may take time to make any changes to your workplace post-lockdown, so the earlier you start planning the better.

Remember, if staff members, or those they live with, fall ill with symptoms of Coronavirus, they will still need to adhere to the isolation recommendations and stay away.

Support available

Find advice for SMEs and the self-employed on furloughing, government loans, employment law and more. Your accountant can help you to manage your finances through this tricky time and advise on business rate cuts, for example.

For more practical advice and business insights, you can follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Avatar for Samantha Rowe
About Samantha Rowe

Sam’s title is Operations Manager, but the title itself doesn’t truly convey the variety of what she does for THP.  From administrative tasks to payroll, strategic business planning, and office systems and procedures, Sam’s primary skill lies in multitasking.

Sam’s journey began as an office junior with George Nottage (now merged with THP), and she soon learned skills in payroll and bookkeeping, and then gained experience as a PA to the Directors, and as Administration Manager.

At the moment, Auto Enrolment is an area that has a key focus for Sam, and for THP as a whole.  “The question I’m asked the most by clients just now is, ‘How will auto enrolment affect me?’ And the answer is, no matter how big or small you are, you will absolutely be affected by the Auto Enrolment regulations. I’d encourage you to start thinking about it now, and to look at your payroll software to make sure you’re ready.”

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