The UK government is beginning to ease COVID-19 restrictions across England, allowing most businesses to reopen. This will see millions of people going back to work. But with so much disruption caused by the pandemic, employees might have concerns about returning.
More than half of workers are still reluctant to go back to the office over fears they might contract COVID-19, according to a poll conducted by Huma. As an employer, it is important to develop a return to work plan to ensure your staff feel safe returning to the workplace. There are a number of actions you can take to reassure employees.
It is vital that you minimise the possibility of catching COVID-19 whilst at work. The best way to do this is through a risk assessment. In this assessment, you must:
- • Identify which situations might cause transmission
- • Think about who could be at risk
- • Decide on the likelihood of exposure
- • Act to control the risk
There are a number of things that should form part of your COVID-19 risk assessment. These include: social distancing, regular hand sanitisation and cleaning surfaces frequently.
Government guidelines state that you should share the results of the risk assessment with your workforce. If you have over 50 members of staff, you should publish the results on your website.
Communicate, connect and engage
Most workers felt isolated when working from home, according to a study by Steelcase. They found that the top reason employees want to return to the office is to socialise with colleagues. It is important to communicate with your staff during the return to work process to ensure they feel connected.
People want to feel a sense of belonging in the workplace, which can be achieved with effective communication. This is not only good for employee wellbeing but it also has positive business outcomes. Feeling a strong sense of community and having a shared company vision boosts productivity, engagement and commitment to the organisation.
Different ways of working
You could offer a phased return to work for employees who are anxious about coming back. This allows them to continue to work from home on some days of the week. Flexible working can also be a good way of easing your employees back into the workplace. This involves staff working hours, or days, that are different to their existing ones.
Flexible working arrangements can include:
- • Changing hours to fit in with caring responsibilities
- • Job sharing
- • Shift working
- • Changing to annualised hours
Flexible working doesn’t just benefit employees. Employers can enjoy:
- • Greater productivity
- • Increased engagement
- • Employee retention
- • Increased motivation and creativity
Promote good mental health
At least one in six workers experience mental health problems, according to research by Mind. They found that work is the biggest cause of stress in people’s lives. It is your duty as an employer to support staff who are struggling. Early intervention can prevent problems escalating and help individuals to recover quicker.
There are a number of things you can do to support your employees’ mental wellbeing, such as:
- • Build relationships with staff – good relationships can provide people with emotional support. Having a positive relationship with your employees makes it easier to start conversations about any help they might need.
- • Encourage physical activity – evidence shows that exercise can cause a chemical change in your brain which positively affects your mood.
- • Create a learning environment – acquiring new skills can give you a sense of purpose and boost self-confidence.
- • Promote mindfulness in the workplace – this involves paying attention to the present. It can help people to enjoy the world around them and understand themselves better.
To conclude, it is important that you put measures in place to reduce employee anxieties about returning to the workplace. These can include: completing risk assessments, communicating effectively, introducing flexible working and promoting positive mental health.
Your staff should be made aware of the measures you are taking. They should also know how to look after their own safety and mental health.
Here at Wranx we have created a Return to Work training module to help your employees return to the office safely and confidently. You can learn more about the module and how to sign up here.