Back to the office but is it back to normal?

How has getting back to the office gone for you?

For many of us, July 19 – the so-called Freedom Day – marked the beginning of the return to working from an office.

The Government removed most of the restrictions previously in place, as well as the instruction that we should work from home if it was at all possible.

But, of course, the virus didn’t necessarily get the memo and just disappear overnight. The Government has said that the return to the office or factory should be gradual over the summer with infections likely to continue.

So how have workplaces coped with the new situation and what should all employers be doing to keep their workers safe?

Working Safely

It’s important to keep up to date with all the Government’s latest recommendations and advice. Most workers still have to self-isolate for ten days if they are pinged by the NHS app – but there are a number of exceptions. Make sure you know how the new rules apply to you.

From August 16 the self-isolation rules relax a little more. After this date under-18s and those who have received a second COVID vaccination at least 10 days before the contact no longer need to isolate. 

Face coverings are now voluntary in most situations, though some transport operators and shops may still insist on them to prevent virus transmission in crowded, indoor areas.

Hybrid working

Many companies have seen the way their staff pivoted to home working at the start of the pandemic and have opted to keep a greater flexibility in their new working practices. That means that hybrid working patterns – part home-based and part in the office – are becoming more common.

Whilst employees were largely happy to adopt home-working at the start of the pandemic, when there was a mood of national emergency about the situation, they will be less understanding if employers do not provide all the necessary resources for home working now.

For employers, that means making sure staff have the necessary technology and equipment, remote working communication channels, supervision and employee management to work just as effectively, and safely, at home as in the office.

As staff return to the office, remember they are likely to be nervous and anxious. Ensure all workplaces are safe and review all your working conditions and practices. It may still make sense to maintain social distancing, face coverings, different shift patterns and such like for the time being. Talk to your staff and finds out what their views are before setting any policy rigidly in place.

Vaccination policy

What are you doing about vaccinations? Are you insisting staff have both jabs – in which case how are you enforcing and monitoring it? What are you doing about staff who say they will not return to the office until everyone is vaccinated? And how are you encouraging those who are still reluctant to have the jab to get themselves vaccinated?

It’s a good idea think through your own policy around whether some or all staff are required to be vaccinated as part of their job and also to look at how you can continue to work in a way which prevents the spread of the virus.

Online meetings and video conferencing are good options in helping people cut down on travel and ensuring they are not crammed into confined places. Travel polices, PPE advice and ways of maintaining shift patterns which minimise contact are all good ways of reducing anxiety as staff return.

Leadership

It’s crucial that all employers show clear, trusted leadership through the next few months. That means briefing all managers and line managers on some of the issues to look out for – such as staff wellbeing and anxiety – and adopting policies to deal with them.

Where possible, make sure that all line managers are scheduling one-to-one meetings with all staff. This can bring them up to speed on new working practices, tell them what’s being done to keep them safe, spread advice about vaccination and lend a listening ear as well.

Communication with your staff will be key to making sure you retain their loyalty and goodwill as they return to the office. And remember to include all those who have not come back to work yet, for whatever reason. Inclusivity is going to be more important than ever as we move beyond the pandemic.

If you need any help with any of these issues, use the contact button on this page and we’ll be delighted to offer you a free consultation.

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