Shortly, all non-essential businesses throughout Scotland will hopefully be allowed to return to the office, after over a year of working from home or being on furlough. An enormous step for the Scottish economy, allowing businesses to appreciate their office environment again whilst reintroducing their team dynamic and culture.
Whilst some staff might be very excited about being back, for many people. the thought of getting back to the office or workplace could be extremely daunting, so it’s important to ensure your team are at ease and feel comfortable with all of the new procedures. In this blog, we explore some of the first protocols you should consider before welcoming your team back to the workplace, from offering more flexibility to providing enhanced personal support.
Safety is of paramount importance to companies worldwide when welcoming staff back into the office or workplace and having a duty of care in place is crucial. But you may be thinking, where do I start? With so many elements to take into consideration, it's easy to get a little overwhelmed especially when there are numerous actions to be adjusted. Here are just a few procedures you may be required to implement to ensure a completely safe environment for all of your staff.
- Daily temperature checks
- Numerous hand sanitising stations
- Provide disposable masks for the team
- Desk reconfiguration to maintain social distancing measures
- Perspex screens on all desks
- Regular cleaning schedules and enhanced cleaner hours per day
- Traffic maintenance for stairways and meeting rooms
- Dyson Air Purifiers to keep the environment fresh
- Open windows regularly for fresh flow of air
- Utilise meeting rooms as desk space
- Keep the doors open to reduce the number of people touching doors
- Encouragement of lateral flow testing
Why not create a video tour of how you’ve changed your office and share with the team prior to returning? This will ensure your team feel confident enough to step back into office life and give them peace of mind that they will be safe and you are putting all of the necessary procedures in place!
As well as doing your part, all employees will need to be responsible for cleaning the area around them regularly and wiping down any surfaces they touch after use, such as light switches, kettles, door handles, printers and many more shared items. (This means no more tea rounds!) You should consider stocking up on cleaning materials to encourage frequent cleaning around the office and perhaps disposable masks if employees are popping in and out of the workplace.
As we can all imagine, there are many additional safety procedures and work practices to follow, therefore having an abundance of necessary instructions and documentation is not unusual. You’ve probably even already started your initial return to work preparations to ensure you remain ahead of the game.
The primary information you should identify is how your employees feel about returning to the office, what are their concerns, what new procedures would they like to adopt, would they prefer working from home part-time to ease back into the new normal? Start by planning out certain surveys you are going to share with the team to gain feedback on what your employees would prefer going forward. This will provide you with a great insight into their thoughts and feelings about returning to the office, allowing you to accommodate accordingly to their needs. And why not make surveys a new regular occurrence within your organisation? That way, you’ll be kept up to date if circumstances change, whilst also promoting a duty of care for your team.
Employers also have the responsibility of providing necessary training materials that detail the new procedures and are recommended to carry out a risk assessment prior to the return to the workplace. Any additional information or training modules that you feel would be beneficial to you and your team in these times, to ensure the utmost safety and wellbeing among your employees, should be prepared and distributed in good time.
There are many ways in which companies can implement flexible working solutions for a return to the workplace, to maintain a high level of safety whilst accommodating for personal commitments that may have evolved over the course of lockdown.
You may want to introduce a staggered approach to your teams start and finish times, to perhaps help them avoid the busiest public transport routes in the morning and evenings. Even staggering lunch breaks could eliminate the number of people getting up and leaving their desks or sharing the kitchen at the one time. Another beneficial flexibility method that will not only limit staff numbers in the office but also ease your team back into life at the office is working from home part-time structure, creating a hybrid environment.
Employers should also consider more flexibility when it comes to meetings. Even though you may be back at the office full-time, meetings can still be organised via Microsoft Teams or Zoom to allow a further degree of flexibility between internal and external teams, whilst also encouraging a safer and perhaps time-effective way of conducting those all-important meetings.
One of the most crucial elements of you and your teams return to work is ensuring that everyone received the necessary support and help that they need. Navigating a return to the workplace after working from home since the start of the pandemic could be extremely overwhelming for some. Those on furlough for a lengthy period could find it difficult to regain that productivity and motivation within their initial few weeks back.
Bupa Health Clinic also recently released statistics surrounding the topic of returning to the office, finding that over 60% of British workers are feeling anxious about their return, whilst over 40% were concerned about proper social distancing within the workplace.
Everyone is dealing with this pandemic in a different way, so employers need to keep this in mind when proving support to their team. You should make a point of asking each employee about any concerns or worries surrounding their return to the office. At Stafffinders, we have adopted a (socially distanced!) one-to-one meeting schedule, which is a fantastic way for each team member to catch up directly with their line manager on a weekly basis.