In a series of blog posts, we're re-visiting our publication Returning to the Workplace to share our findings and make our work more accessible on our platform.
Returning to the Workplace: Part 1
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the workforce as we know it. Is your business considering a fully remote model of work, or a hybrid model? Is everyone to come back to the office like all is normal? The following guide will provide informative and simplified notes on preparing on-site and remote jobs for a new world of work.
The following aims to provide general guidance to employers in preventing the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace. This is by no means a replacement for governmental and legal recommendations. Rather, this publication should be used to initiate healthy discussions when deciding a return to work plan. Key topics include awareness, health and safety measures, flexible working, mental health and wellbeing, and recommendations for leadership.
When we speak of the workforce, we’re referring to a collective—a generalised outlook into what the needs and values of the working society are. In the circumstances of setting a return to work (RTW) plan, employers and leaders alike must work to consider the individual circumstances of employees. Their view should be holistic in understanding any physical and emotional matters whilst adhering to the latest governmental guidance.
With the above in mind, management and similar professions should undergo some awareness training that can help them prepare for assisting employees in navigating their new work environment. This can include some of the following:
- Their legal responsibility in conducting the relevant and appropriate health and safety assessments in terms of risk mitigation in the office,
- Establishing a duty of care in protecting employees, especially those who are most vulnerable, in minimising the spread of Covid-19 infection, and
- Amending the office environment through the following, minimal procedures such as: improved ventilation, adequate distance between employees, minimised risk for customers and visitors, sufficient cleaning of the workplace, protective equipment such as masks, etcetera.
It is important that awareness training is ongoing and relevant according to the latest recommendations served by governmental and scientific authorities. Developments within the workplace such as improved ventilation may require additional assistance and resources to ensure these are appropriate. Do spend time in exploring what is needed in this area and learn what resources are available to you.
Health & Safety
Any communications between staff and management regarding health should be prioritised. If any worker has symptoms of Covid-19 (including fever, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, loss of sense of smell) they should be advised to remain at home and do not enter the workplace.
Management should also help employees ensure they’ve contacted the relevant medical practitioners for further guidance. Such guidance differs according to country such that, in some countries, dedicated phone lines are established for Covid-19 inquiries and assistance. As management supports employees who are unwell, these individuals may have to self-isolate or quarantine in their homes until their recovery.
Going to Work
The mode of transport used to go to and from the workplace will differ among employees. For those who use public transport, for example, management can suggest individuals follow the respective guidance and regulations of the transportation. You may want to encourage employees to come to work on foot or on a bicycle, or ensure adequate parking is available for employees choosing to drive. In any circumstance, emphasise to employees the importance of maintaining good hand and respiratory hygiene.
Now that employees are arriving to the office, you can set and improve the following health and safety regulations:
- Apply the relevant symptom-screening procedures according to your country’s regulations, e.g., this may include body temperature control, or a Covid-19 test.
- Ensure that any visitors or customers also understand any workplace regulations.
- Promote physical distancing between employees and avoid crowding in various areas of the office. This may mean having teams come to the office on dedicated and separate days from other teams, for example.
- Continue to promote positive hygiene habits, including posters that remind workers how to wash their hands and to sanitise their hands regularly. Encourage employees to avoid greetings which necessitate human contact, like a hug or handshake.
- Include a maximum number of persons per common area to ensure physical distancing measures are maintained.
- In common areas with tables and seats, for example, ensure these are spaced between one another, which may mean removal of some furniture.
- In common areas that require payment, such as a canteen, allow payments to be made via contactless measures and reduce/remove appliances that encourage use by multiple persons such as a common microwave or kettle.
- Ensure all areas of the office, including equipment like computer keyboards are regularly cleaned and sanitised.
When the working day has come to an end and employees begin their travels home, remind them to sanitise their hands before leaving the office and to wash their hands properly once they’ve arrived home.