Top tips for employers: returning to work after the lockdown
As more of us are returning to the office, here are some of the key considerations and measures for businesses when resuming normal operations:
Your staffing needs may have changed over the past three months – for better or worse. The following strategies are simple and inexpensive, and can be quickly implemented.
Businesses should explore extending the core hours of work to allow lower workplace densities. This will allow employees to travel at off-peak times and facilitate social distancing. Dependence on public transport can be reduced by promoting car sharing and cycle schemes. Workplace density can also be managed by the continuation of homeworking where possible.
In situations where optimal social distancing measures are not possible, a personal hygiene programme should be established, with designated times for handwashing before and after periods of working closely with others. Hand sanitizers should be provided where there is less access to washing facilities.
2. Mental health
Recent research showed that 80% of Britons felt that working from home during the pandemic had negatively impacted their mental health.
Be mindful of the different ways employees may have been affected by COVID crisis. Many may have been through stress, illness or bereavement related to the pandemic. Managers should be trained to identify increased stress and anxiety among employees, including homeworkers, and should ensure that adequate support and signposting is in place.
3. Physical health
The pandemic has proved to be a ‘perfect storm’ for the physical health of the population, For instance, common conditions like arthritis have been affected by a lack of access to treatment during lockdown, combined with a reduction in physical activity for many homeworkers. Stress and anxiety may have led to an increase in unhealthy coping strategies, such as an increased use of alcohol.
It is, of course, vitally important to follow government guidance to identify and protect staff deemed at higher risk of COVID complications because of their age, ethnicity or existing health conditions.
Many employers have embraced technology in new ways during the pandemic, for instance, an increased use of video calls. This is a positive development, and in some cases communications with colleagues located at more remote sites will have improved. As we return to the physical workspace, it’s vital that your organisation’s technical support is fit for purpose – to support the new modes of communication which have become second-nature in recent months – and to make home-working sustainable in the longer term for employees who need this flexibility.
By Dr Mark Simpson
Consultant Occupational Physician