As factories, offices, retail stores and venues across the UK move towards re-opening post COVID-19, it’s clear we are not going to back to “normal.” As a business owner, you can’t afford to expect employees to jump back in and return to business-as-usual. During the pandemic, a lot has changed in employees’ lives, in the world, and perhaps in your company. To make sure your staff are prepared to get back to work, this is a key opportunity to look at your employee and customer experience, workplace environments, communications, and expectations.
Different business types will assess the supposed level of risk that their environments pose to both their customers and their employees, as the government begins to relax mandated closures and community stay-at-home orders. There will be no one single solution for all businesses, the options to deploy safe protective measures will depend on a number of factors, including cost, building size and accessibility, business type and to a lesser-extent the aesthetics of the solution and how it fits within your current setup.
Regardless of how you operated in the past, we are cautiously advised that businesses must take the necessary precautions to protect the public and to avoid a resurgence of COVID-19 in the community.
Social Distancing Solutions
Businesses and employers should plan to respond in a flexible way to varying levels of disease transmission in the community and be prepared to refine their plans as needed.
This guide published by the CIPD aims to help with planning an organisation’s next steps following a period of furlough or once lockdown measures start easing.
The guide suggests that employers need to plan now for what is likely to be staged return to the workplace over what could be prolonged periods. Their guiding principle should be how organisations take care of their people and safeguard their health and well-being.
Manufacturers, including CDI UK have been respsonding to the urgent need of businesses throughout the UK and designing and manufacturing products which facilitate social distancing in the workplace and help businesses accommodate their employees and customers more safely. We will see many office environments which currently promote Hot-desking becoming a thing of the past, as seen in draft government proposals in early April 2020 to bring UK businesses out of lockdown.
Most workers will likely experience low or medium exposure risk levels at their job or place of employment. However, in preparing a plan to reopen, businesses should strive to achieve the following objectives: (1) reduce transmission among employees, (2) maintain healthy business operations, and (3) maintain a healthy work culture
1. Reduce Transmission Among Employees
One of the primary goals of businesses preparing to resume operations is to take active steps to reduce transmission of COVID-19 among employees. The CDC offered the following guidelines to achieve that goal:
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home
- Identify where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work - View our catalogue to see our range of workplace distancing product solutions
- Separate sick employees
- Educate employees about how they can reduce the spread of COVID-19
2. Maintain Healthy Business Operations
The plan businesses implement to safely resume operations should also take into consideration how businesses will continue to maintain healthy business operations while remaining in compliance with guidance regarding the mitigation of the spread of COVID-19. The WHO issued a document in early March 2020 giving guidance on the following:
- Simple ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace
- How to manage COVID-19 risks when organising meetings & events
- Things to consider when you and your employees travel
- Getting your workplace ready in case COVID-19 arrives in your community
The WHO recommends that businesses should advise employees to continue to practice active social distancing (specifically, staying 2 meters away from others when you must go into a shared workspace), discourage unnecessary travel, reduce or eliminate in-person meetings and other gatherings
3. Maintain a Healthy Work Culture
Not only are we all experiencing huge uncertainty in our working lives, it is augmented by many personal worries and challenges too. And all this is happening to everyone, at the same time.
To top this off, the majority of us are working very differently, with very little notice. Never before have contemporary businesses come up against such disruption with the potential to uproot a healthy culture.
Businesses that rise to the challenge will consider culture to be one of their key business operations and will protect it as much as possible.
- Support your employees - A clear communication strategy is a key element in allowing you to respond appropriately and confidently, considering the specific needs of the different audiences within your organisation.
- Ensure your Senior Management understands and supports the companies actions - They should be taking ‘reasonable steps’ to mitigate coronavirus-related risks to your business and to ensure continued good outcomes for customers.
- Think about your customers - .Your customers are the backbone of your commercial success. They’ll remember how you treated them during this challenging time, so maintaining good outcomes for them is key to your long-term sustainability.
Finally, extensive guidance will continue to be released as knowledge and understanding of our new way of life becomes more apparent. Keep on top of the legal responsibility that businesses have to ensure both staff and customers remain protected and to mitigate the risks that a future outbreak could have. Bird and Bird published answers to some key questions to clarify employers' legal obligations and support you in protecting your business and people.