With the latest announcements from the government spreading hope that we will all be returning to some form of normality in the not-too-distant future, most businesses are considering how they will bring their employees back into the workplace and the office safely.
Returning to the office after over a year of remote working is going to be a big change for many. It will most likely cause some employees to experience ‘return to work anxiety’. Employers and facilities management teams will no doubt be busy behind the scenes implementing their return-to-work policies. They will need to maintain a sympathetic and flexible approach when ‘re-onboarding’ staff back into the workplace.
The situation we have all found ourselves in is unprecedented, with many employers unsure how best to proceed. Our short guide may be able to help you with your company’s re-introduction process and re-assure your employees that the workplace will be safe when they do come back.
The Current State of Affairs
It’s important for every employer to complete a risk assessment before encouraging their staff to return. This is because there are key points to consider before bringing people back into the workplace such as:
- Government Guidelines
- Latest Restrictions
- Staff wellbeing
Plans have been outlined by the government to lift restrictions by the 21st June 2021, but social distancing restrictions are set to remain in place until that time. This is potentially when we’ll start to see workforces return to their traditional working environment, but guidance on this may change and many companies we have spoken to may not bring their workforce back until September.
CIPD research found that four in ten people are anxious about returning to work, as a result it’s important to maintain effective communication to ensure higher staff contentment and retention.
It is important for employers to consider how staff may feel when returning to the office. While they should be encouraged to come in with the wider workforce, a flexible, blended return may be the best solution. Many businesses are also adopting agile working practises; these are where employees can choose when they come in and where they work within the workplace. This mix of working from home and only coming to the office 2 days a week for instance, in either a collaborative space or individual workstation, is proving popular amongst many companies.
Testing, Vaccinations, and Quarantines
As we return to the workplace, the need for vaccinations will be ongoing, along with the possible need for testing and self-isolating.
Employers must, under current guidance, continue to follow safe working measures, even if employees have received a negative test result or had the vaccine (one or two doses). There are also further options for workplace testing such as regular lateral flow tests.
Consideration needs to be given to the personal working space of staff. Allowances should be made so that desks should be safely spaced and divided, as well as offering a variety of working zones and environments to spread the workforce out. Remote working should be encouraged where possible; this will help reduce face-to-face contact. In larger, open plan environments consider one-way systems in walkways.
Steps need to be taken to ensure that additional hygiene practices become common place in the office. Hand sanitising units and antibacterial wipe dispensers are low cost and easy installations. They’ll be essential in combatting the spread of infection. Our latest cleaning protocol integrated within our smart employee lockers will also help management teams to keep locker surfaces sanitised throughout the day to further reduce the risk of contamination.
The number of staff in the office at any one time should be kept minimal, with others working remotely. Teams grouped by varying skillset will allow for easy isolation should virus symptoms be present. New agile working practises may need to be adopted to help assist with the new workplace changes.
Deep cleaning will be required to be increased as standard, with regular disinfecting of shared areas. High-traffic contact zones, such as handles, bathrooms, desks and chairs will need wiping down with an antibacterial cleaner; this’ll need to be done frequently throughout the day.
De-clutter personal and communal workspaces by introducing additional storage systems and office lockers. Environments that are clear and not cluttered are easier to disinfect and sanitise. Discourage employees from surrounding themselves with personal belongs and minimise paperwork.
Addressing the needs of the business and employees will potentially be a difficult balance, especially due to the social and economic effects of the pandemic. Both employers and employees will need to adapt and recognise the difficult decisions required for both parties as businesses try to return to a new normal in the very near future.
We can help!
Your Workspace are helping businesses transform their workplace. We’re doing this by incorporating hybrid working through our innovative furniture designs and smart locker solutions. Our latest COVID-19 safety features and functions, and new cleaning protocol can help employees feel safer when they return to the workplace. Find out how!back to news