return to work
How people-facing businesses can maintain safety post-lockdown
After months of uncertainty, the world is starting to return to normal following the easing of lockdown restrictions in the UK. The government provided a roadmap out of the pandemic back in May and businesses can now resume operations to varying degrees, depending on the industry they operate in.
But for people-facing businesses, there are still measures to be taken to keep staff and customers safe. The battle against COVID-19 isn’t over yet, so it’s important that companies and individuals alike maintain safety measures and processes post-lockdown – here, Dakota Murphey provides some tips on how this can be achieved for everyone’s health and wellbeing.
Carry out risk assessments
Before workplaces can open up properly, employers need to consider how they can mitigate risks to their employees’ and customers’ health. Companies need to read up on the latest government guidelines for public health guidance and ensure that the workplace is managing risks appropriately. Are safe distances possible? How are communal areas kept safe and clean? Are hand-washing and sanitising stations easily accessible for everyone? Employers need to review cleaning processes to make sure that equipment and communal areas are kept virus-free, as well as providing PPE where necessary.
Maintain distances from clients
Tradespeople have been allowed to work in people’s homes and in businesses, but even after lockdowns have fully lifted, it’s vital that commercial workers continue to adhere to government guidelines. Social distancing still needs to be maintained, and if you work as part of a team, then you should restrict the people you work with to keep the risk of spreading the virus to a minimum. Companies using tradespeople such as plumbers or electricians should allow plenty of space for the workers to do their job, without staff or customers getting too close, as well as making sure that the workers have access to handwashing facilities and sanitisers.
Consult with staff regularly
There’s still a lot of uncertainty, and staff might be apprehensive about returning to work full-time. Employers have a responsibility to help their employees with the transition back to work by ensuring that they are transparent about the measures they’re taking to keep everyone safe. Likewise, employers should involve union safety representatives in their plans and procedures for safety to facilitate a safe return to work for everyone involved. Working with representatives will ensure that there is consistent messaging passed on to staff which will help with trust and morale, while also ensuring that businesses are providing the latest information and guidance.
Embrace the ‘new’ normal
It’s tempting to just return to business as usual as quickly as possible, but it’s important to remind yourself that the safety of your employees and customers needs to be the priority. Employers have a responsibility and a legal obligation to ensure that their staff are kept safe and healthy, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It may not be necessary for all staff to be at the place of work at once, so employers should look to stagger the return to work across the team and only allow workers who can’t work from home to come into work.
Businesses should identify the priorities for the organisation, examining where a return to work is appropriate and where new work is needed, so that they can be sure their post-COVID strategies are aligned with the goals of the business. Rethinking the workplace and operations requires a shift in perspective, but it can enhance the business in the long-term and ensure success during such a challenging time.
Recovery from COVID-19 isn’t going to be static or quick, but it is in sight, so organisations need to plan ahead for various scenarios that might take place – particularly for people-facing businesses who are more at risk than other companies and sectors. Adapting to a staggered approach and a gradual transition to normality is the best way for businesses to keep everyone safe while still operating as usual, whatever the final outcome of the pandemic may be.
Employers should maintain transparency with staff and customers, keep to social distancing guidelines for the foreseeable future and carry out thorough risk assessments to ensure that the workplace environment is as safe as it can be.