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Handy Tips for Returning to the Office After Lockdown

Are you getting ready to reopen your business and start encouraging employees to return to the office? Alternatively, you may have already begun to open your doors again over the past few weeks but need a helping hand with one or two processes.

If you’re transitioning from remote service delivery back to face-to-face team and client interaction, there are a large number of regulations and guidelines that you will need to be aware of. A common trap is to speed up or ‘rush’ internal processes in order to effect change quickly.

However, this can put your business at risk.

The best thing to do is to take a step back and remember: we are all in this together, and with a little time and forward planning, your office can be a safe and positive environment for you, your board and your staff.

There are a number of quick and easy things to consider which will help ensure smooth, day to day operations for your business as the country slowly eases out of lockdown.

Have you considered carrying out a COVID-19 risk assessment?

It is, of course, almost impossible to completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19 in your workplace, but it is important that you consider tactics designed to reduce it as much as possible. By implementing an assessment and plan, you will have one less thing to worry about over the coming weeks and months.

The key stages to tackling risks within your workplace are to;

  • Identify
  • Assess
  • Manage

Take a look at our guidance on risk management and get one step ahead of the game by developing a successful risk management process across your workforce.

Are you meeting the needs of your work-from-home staff?

Understanding that some individuals will need to continue working from home, and setting up the means for them to do so, is extremely important for continued staff engagement.

Remember, your work-from-home staff will have different needs when compared with those in the office. Consider their overall health, wellbeing and platforms for communication. It may also be worth thinking about a ‘phased’ return to work, meaning that changes are not sudden, but happen more gradually as your team adapt.

Consider taking the necessary steps to demonstrate your support as we all work together during this time. With increased focus on mass digitisation across the UK workforce, suggestions include:

  • Discussing home working arrangements with the individual and coming to a decision which suits all parties
  • Ensuring staff have the right equipment to work remotely, for example – access to work systems / data
  • Ensuring that staff are protected online with effective cyber security in line with your company policy, as COVID-19 has provided new opportunities for cyber criminals
  • Including everyone in all communications, no matter their working location
  • Encouraging regular check-ins and updates to ensure staff’s wellbeing
  • Having clear guidelines and policies for all work-from-home activity

Perhaps the global pandemic has made you reassess your entire company framework – could this be the time to make work-from-home a more permanent feature for your workforce? Many organisations are taking a new direction, and future-proofing their systems through an increase in work from home opportunities. If this is the case, ensure that you have all the necessary arrangements in place to make this a viable option for years to come.

Have you considered developing company-wide return-to-work procedures?

We’ve all heard the 20-second hand washing rule, but enforcing this, as well as other hygiene related processes, is going to be essential for keeping staff protected in the workplace.

Ensure that your HR (or similar) department considers implementing hygiene policy changes with immediate effect. These changes could include the frequency with which your office cleaners work, or asking them to pay close attention to common areas which are frequently touched, such as coffee machines, printers, taps, door handles and light switches. You may also need to provide hand sanitiser in addition to the facilities provided in bathrooms.

As well as new hygiene measures, it’s widely known that one of the best ways to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 is through social distancing. As such, you should take reasonable steps to ensure that those from separate households remain 2m apart where possible, in line with government guidelines.

This can be done by:

  • Putting up signs to remind workers, visitors and/or customers of social distancing guidance
  • Ensuring a ‘one person per desk’ policy and avoiding the need to share workstations or meeting rooms
  • Marking out areas to help people keep to a 2m distance
  • Arranging a one-way traffic system through the office
  • Switching to seeing visitors/customers by appointment only
  • Limiting the maximum number of employees in the building at one time

Innovative and creative ways to manage a return to the office for your team

Of course, there will be certain situations where social distancing cannot be followed. Your risk assessment should highlight whether such activities are indeed necessary and vital for your business to operate. If they are deemed so, your assessment should lay out plans to reduce the chances for transmission. Plans may include:

  • Keeping the activity as short as possible
  • Staggering arrival and departure times
  • Using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • Reducing face to face working and instead moving desks side on or back to back
  • Reducing the number of people each individual has contact with by implementing maximum numbers of individuals working close per team
  • Supplying badges or wristbands so that your team can highlight how they feel about interaction i.e. Happy to Handshake or Keeping my Distance
  • Introducing a thermal imaging camera to detect where clients entering the premises have a temperature

Don’t forget to remain flexible and respond swiftly to changes in government legislation

Last month, the government announced that face masks are to be compulsory in UK shops, with the new legislation coming into effect from 24th July. At the time of writing this article, Matt Hancock has rejected the use of face masks and coverings for offices. However, you should consider whether frequent changes in government legislation will have an impact on your organisation – they most likely will in the months ahead.

It’s important to remain flexible and ready to adapt should you need to quickly change your precautionary practices, and make sure that you communicate all new / changed procedures to staff through email communication and signage around the workplace.

Get personalised governance support and company secretarial services

We’re all working hard to get life back to normal as quickly – and as safely – as possible. With so much to think about for you and your team, outsourcing governance support will enable you to tick one thing off the list.

Get in touch with Bridgehouse today to find out more about our range of services spanning governance, company secretarial services and more.

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