Posts

Embrace HR Aylesbury Returning to Work during Covid pexels-polina-zimmerman-4008565

As the government encourages construction and manufacturing businesses to get staff back to work unless they can work at home, we take a look at what SMEs need to consider to ensure their staff are kept safe…

The current message from the government is now for businesses to start getting back to work if they possibly can. And with a clearer idea of how long the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) is to go on for, and a plan for getting people gradually back to work in place, now’s the time to look at how to manage staff back.

For now, anyone who can work from home should do so, but the government is suggesting that other employees get back to work by June where appropriate. The CIPD has said that employers should meet the requirement of a three-point checklist before bringing staff back to work. These are as follows:

  • Firstly, that it is essential for employees to be present in the workplace
  • Secondly, that it is safe for them to be there
  • And thirdly, that both employers and workers agree that they should come back into the workplace.

The workspace

The key questions to pose before your office staff return to work are:

  • Can they still work from home?
  • When they do come back to work how will that be achieved to maintain social distancing and minimise the risk and spread of infection?

You must consider how staff can safely distance from each other, not just when sat at a desk, but when walking around the office, using the toilet and drinks areas. You need to work out safe walking routes around the workspace and, if space is tight, consider splitting shifts or alternating days so that you don’t have all of the staff in at all times. Screens should only be used if you have no more space to distance employees, and meetings should be avoided. If they must take place, keep everyone distanced or take it outside if possible. Hot desking is also to be avoided. If someone has to use another desk, computers and phone, or other equipment, these should be thoroughly cleaned between users.

Changing the way you work

Perhaps this whole situation has made you realise that your staff can work from home. Maybe you don’t need an office or can utilise a smaller space. Now is a good time to consider how your business might look in the future. Start looking at the implications of people working full time from home – what do you need to do to make this happen – for instance:

  • Do you need a more robust IT provision in place?
  • What extra insurance cover will you need?
  • Have you been using Microsoft Teams or other collaborative software? Can this work in the future? If not, consider what sort of software and systems you need to make the shift in order to work more effectively and efficiently.

Getting to work

The message is that the youngest school children and those in Year 6 (age 10-11) will go back to school first. For some of your staff this will mean that they have children who cannot be left at home alone. Remember that even if your staff have slightly older children, they may have needs that mean they cannot be left at home all day either. Also, staff who need to use public transport may be unwilling to do so. In both cases, you need to have an open discussion with them about what the alternatives are:

  • Can they continue to work from home?
  • Can they work different hours to avoid going on busy transport systems, or work around a partner’s work hours to enable childcare?

Keeping safe

Government guidance says that all employers should be carrying out risk assessments on returning to work, consulting both with their workers and trade unions where applicable. If you employ more than 50 people you will be expected to publish the risk assessment on your company website.

To keep any contact to a minimum, staggered shifts and keeping staff in the same teams are good ways to minimise the number of people with whom they come into contact.

On construction sites, staggered arrival times and multiple entrances are suggested, along with screens to separate workers. Where social distancing is not possible, workers should work back to back or side by side. Swapping of tools should be avoided to lessen the risk of contamination.

In addition, in factories, plants and warehouses, employers should look at how people can work away from each other, in order to maintain the required social distancing, and to stagger the times and locations of breaks.

Working in other people’s homes

If your staff work in people’s homes, such as carers and support workers, or even nurses, they should discuss how social distancing will be achieved. However, working with people means often being close to them. They may require personal care which means that social distancing is not possible. There are other areas to consider. Recommendations can be to leave all internal doors open to minimise touching door handles; restricting the number of people working in normal busy areas such as kitchens and bathrooms; and the mantra of ‘wash hands on arrival and regularly throughout’ cannot be repeated enough. And, of course, it should go without saying that everyone – whether in the home or workplace – should try and minimise the spread of infection.

Restaurants

Keep kitchen access limited to essential staff to minimise any contact. If the kitchen is large enough, install screens to separate workers and only allow one person to enter walk-in freezers and pantries at one time.

Shops

Shops should limit customers in the premises to maintain social distance, use contactless payment where possible and reduce customer service to enable the safety for staff.

Vehicles

If your staff use the company’s vehicles, they should be provided with hand sanitiser and cleaning products. Keep staff in teams so that contact is minimised and supply screens to keep them separate if possible. Contact for deliveries should be kept to a minimum, using online payment and pre-arranging for goods to be dropped off in a safe and secure area.

 

You can read the full government guidance on working safely here.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you with work from home contracts, risk assessments, staff safety, the furlough scheme and other COVID-19 related issues, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Embrace HR blog

Innovation happens in times of crises

Think World Wars. Diseases. Catastophes brought on by climate change. It is no different for us today living in the COVID-19 situation. We have been in lockdown. We are now considering a return to normal life. A life that will never be as ‘normal’ as that which we left behind some months ago.

In the UK, as in other places across the globe, we have to think about what normality is for us. In particular, this blog is about some questions to consider, and my humble opinion, about getting back to normality in the workplace during and after COVID-19. But, what is normality in the workplace? For each workplace, in my opinion, it will be different. How will your workplace differ? What are your views, as the country discusses return to work?

One such innovation is that of a local pub in our area who started a drive-through bbq service. I only found out about it after the date, but I will be watching out for the next bbq! Another is the ‘big boys’ working with the ‘little boys’ – M&S a well-known British organisation, met up with Deliveroo, part of the gig economy delivery service.

What?

What are you going to do now that your workforce will be able to return to work “tomorrow” as our erstwhile Prime Minister indicated in his statement last night.

Work being your normal place of work. Your office. Your workspace.

What does your organisation look like today?

What will it look like tomorrow after COVID-19?

When?

When is this going to happen?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement last night intimated that it will be sooner rather than later. In fact, he said the word “tomorrow” that being today, Monday 11 May.

How many of us are ready for a return today?

How practical is it?

Where will your people return?

How will you transition back to work?

So many questions. So many questions.

Why?

Now that most organisations have experienced first-hand that working remotely, from home, has advantages, will this become the norm? It is not for everyone, but everyone can be trained to work remotely. They have had to do so very quickly.

Not all organisations can work remotely. Think of our carers, doctors and nurses in the NHS as well as other Key Workers. Think of the organisations that need hands-on care.

BUT, even now we have virtual appointments with our doctors; we have a helpline to the NHS where we describe our symptoms and we are provided with a solution!

It is efficient, if not more so than being in an office.

Is it time to ask – why haven’t you considered this form of working before? 

Presenteeism has been a word bandied about often in the workplace. By working remotely, work has to be outcome-based. That is important.

What have you done today that has been productive?

Why have you not been able to complete that in the time that you have available?

Does it matter where you work? Does it matter when you work?

Not really. Provided you get the job done, in the time that it is needed to be done. And you are available for your customers when they need assistance.

Do you realise that some of your workforce may not be back at work? 

Why?

  • They may have childcare responsibilities and do not want to send their children to school until the COVID-19 situation is clear.
  • They may have experienced working in a different way, and decide that it is what they want to continue to do.
  • They may be considering another option, to become self-employed, or to take up a new job.

You may decide that you don’t need the same workforce that you had pre-COVID-19. You may diversify. You may find that your product is not viable, but you have something different to offer.

Where?

Where will you meet to discuss the way forward with your employees? So often it is your employees who will have suggestions and ideas to help you along.

Video conference, training videos, webinairs have been available for many years. But, they have now come into their own. They are growing businesses. Zoom, Skype, Teams, watching theatre productions from your home, as has been shown in The Shows Must Go On based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s productions and The National Theatre, as well as virtual visits to museums are different ways of working.

Are these the workplaces of the future?

This is how new employment begins.

A catastrophe. A solution.

Think – Wars. Foot and Mouth Outbreaks. Disease.

How?

How will we get back to ‘normal’ work?

It’s the practical things to consider.

What is legal?

What is best business and HR practice and what the government considers is necessary.

How can these be dealt with in practical terms?

It is not simply a matter of come in and start working.

We have to consider whether work spaces need deep cleaning.

How many of us can be in the workspace at the same time.

How do we employ social distancing?

What happens when you feel ill? A headache? A cold? Coughing?

Innovations

Innovations happen in times of crises.

Whilst we have been in lockdown, we have seen many innovations and different ways of working.

  • Supermarkets using different methods for shopping. Different timings for shopping for vulnerable people or older people. ‘One way’ human traffic systems.
  • A local pub in my area, last week, offered a ‘drive through bbq’. You HAD to place your order beforehand, you were given a drive-through time to collect your burger (and they looked like very good burgers even if I don’t eat meat – there was a veggie option too).
  • The gig economy boomed. The self-employed delivery company, Deliveroo, came into it’s own. How fabulous to see the big organisations such as M&S having to link up with the smaller self-employed person.
  • I watched a programme on TV on Sunday – farmers supplying customers direct with their vegetables, rather than through a supermarket.
  • Bakers supplying customers direct with their flour, because the wholesalers do not have packaging to make up the smaller amounts required by the ordinary person.
  • Workplaces have increased sanitiser stations.

Social distancing means putting in place ways and means for employees to be able to do so on an everyday level.

Are we moving back to buying local?

We have always known that the economy of the country depends on the small business.

Now is the time to show how we support our small businesses.

 

What are your views, as the country discusses the pros and cons of returning to work, and how we do so.


You may like to read our previous articles relating to COVID-19

If you would like to discuss any employment matters further and find out how we could help you  please contact us Embrace HR Limited. Phone us or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.