As we begin to emerge from the shadows, companies all over the UK (us included) are thinking about who will be returning to the office. To help you stay ahead of the curve, we want to offer our guidance and ideas for curating an action plan for how to move forward, and how to work out who needs to come back to the office.
Many companies anxious to introduce remote working practises fearing in a drop in productivity had been pleasantly surprised by the output of their team. Around two months on from the initial adrenalin-fuelled scramble, it poses the question of how we keep the energy and spirits up of our teams whilst in lockdown. We also need to make sure that they are working safely at home.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find two team members coping with this situation the same way. Where one team member will have a garden to escape to, another will be restricted on space in an inner-city house share with no space for a dedicated workstation. Acknowledging, and creating flexibility around individual domestic circumstances will be important at the moment for both the individual’s happiness and wellbeing.
Our MD Jo Blood sharing her thoughts on home-working with the BBC
Now that we’ve had some time to adjust to the ‘new normal’ it’s important to note that your employees are still under your duty of care. With an element of home working likely to continue for the foreseeable future, devise an action plan to ensure that your team are physically and mentally well:
Suggested action plan for now
- Identify employees who need immediate attention by auditing their home workstation with a self-assessment. With the team dispersed, you’ll need to efficiently identify who needs your attention first so we would suggest an online or virtual DSE assessment. Review any replies that have been flagged and see if you can advise on any reasonable adjustments that they can make with everyday household options, or if possible, by procuring vital pieces of workstation equipment.
- Audit who can and cannot continue to safely work from home. Following your self-assessment, you might spot issues with your employees home working set-up that you deem could cause musculoskeletal issues if continued long term. You should abide by DSE regulations as you would in any typical workplace so if it’s impossible for them to re-create a workstation, you may take the view that they need to be prioritised as and when a return to the office is available. Failing that, can you make better provisions for their home workspace?
- If possible, be flexible with your working hours to acknowledge different domestic situations – is it crucial that tasks are completed during the 9-5? If not, can you adjust ‘the rota’ to spread time-dependent tasks to other members of the team?
- When checking in with your team, acknowledge that their individual circumstances will affect each team member differently. Many employees will be fearful of open discussions around their health and wellbeing for fear of job security. Encourage these conversations to see if there is a way that you can support them, even from afar
- Try to continue the nuisances of everyday life that people tend to miss. Creating a community with regular catch-ups, quizzes and watercooler chats might help those struggling with loneliness (check with HR but we’d recommend extended the invitation to furloughed staff to take part – they might feel left out!)
- Work alongside your IT provider to regularly check the security of your systems. It’s more than ever to safeguard data when using unfamiliar software and devices.
In the near future
Peering into our crystal ball, we predict (and hope) that the lasting effects on workplaces will be a new mindset of ‘health first’ – both physically and mentally.
Whilst it’s doubtful that we will all be pouring back into our offices at once, we can prepare our workplaces as best as we can to utilise the footprint of the office to allow for effective, long-term social distancing practises. This means effective workspace space planning, flexible shift patterns, physical barriers, strict hygiene protocols and more dependence on remote technologies.
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Suggested action plan for the near future
- Open a discussion on how your team really want to work going forward. Encouraging their thoughts about the future of the workplace will mitigate mistakes further along in your action plan e.g. will team members be able to return to the office pre-vaccination if they have an auto-immunised dependant? What did you miss most about the office when working from home? Getting a better perspective with a survey or discussion will give you invaluable insight for when you are up and running again
- Many companies have already started looking into space planning to see how many people can feasibly return to the office safely. Properly considering your layout before a phased return to work will warrant who and when can access the office safely. This will have a knock-on effect on your rota, tasks and working practices so make sure you take this step into consideration first:
- If a layout change is impossible, consider retrofittable physical barriers to limit contact and infection such as desk safety screens or freestanding screening
- Consider entrances and exits to the building (communal or private) to reduce bottlenecks and touchpoints
- Expect that a return to 'our new normality' will be anxiety-inducing for many employees. Help them to feel safe with hygiene protocols, effective safety communications and their own dedicated workspaces and equipment.
We're here to help
We know that all workplaces will have hurdles relevant to their industry and job roles. If you require any advice, please leave us a message below and we will get back to you as soon as possible or call on 0330 332 0880.