How to Ensure a Safe Return to Work

2020 saw the world of work turned upside-down, along with many other aspects of daily life. COVID-19 forced businesses to frantically find ways to move their workforce out of the office and into their homes. Over time, many businesses have warmed to the idea of allowing employees to maintain some level of homeworking in the future — with 24% of businesses intending to increase homeworking going forward. However, the work from home (WFH) option was always a temporary solution for many organizations, and the return to work is approaching. The question many people have is, “How do you ensure a safe return to work?”.

One of the main issues businesses will encounter is that a large percentage of employees are not eager to return. This is partly because of the flexibility and freedom associated with WFH but mainly due to health concerns and potential health and safety risks. Here’s how you can ensure a safe return to the office.

Prioritize health and safety

It is important not to return to the office until adequate measures are in place to protect workers. To ensure a safe return to the workplace can be guaranteed, it is important to firstly carry out a risk assessment. Once you have more information on potential risks, it is important to develop stringent health and safety policies and processes designed to keep employees safe.

These new health and safety policies should consider a range of factors, including social distancing, face coverings, ventilation, hand-washing, general hygiene, and even the risks associated with public transport. 

Remember mental health

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, society has been forced to isolate, deal with a global health crisis and change the way we live our lives. Therefore, as restrictions are lifted, and a return to crowded workplaces appears on the horizon, it is easy to understand how this has resulted in many people developing a form of anxiety known as “return to work anxiety”.

Mental health has always been an important topic, but employers have a duty, now more than ever, to take anxiety, stress and depression into account when bringing employees back into the office. Support, compassion, and communication are all key to a successful return.

Consider new workplace strategies

As you prepare to return to the workplace, it is important to consider that this unprecedented and testing time should also be viewed as an incredible opportunity to improve your workplace. Reducing overheads, increasing productivity, and changing the way your employees work are all possible during this period of change. Although employees may be returning to work, it doesn’t mean that you can’t adapt your ways of working to suit each individual. 

There has never been a better time to re-evaluate your workplace strategy and adopt hybrid, remote, or other flexible ways of working. By transitioning to more flexible strategies, you can not only offer your employees more freedom but also more easily ensure a safe and socially-distanced return to the workplace. 

Invest in technology

Technology has been key to enabling businesses to adapt throughout the pandemic, and it also looks to hold the key to the return to the workplace. Workplace management systems will play a key role in helping businesses ensure a safe workplace. 

Different aspects of workplace management like desk and meeting room booking software and visitor management software are all essential parts of an organization’s safe return-to-work experience. Workplace management systems not only help employees return to work but also create a smooth transition for organizations looking to adapt by adopting a new workplace strategy and implementing hybrid ways of working. 

Rearrange the workplace

As well as thinking about how you will use your office in a ‘post-COVID’ environment, you should also consider how you intend to structure your workplace so that employees feel comfortable at the same time safe. 

This could involve organizing your office so that employees are socially distanced, installing personal protective screens in reception areas, or placing signage to indicate social distancing, one-way systems or hygiene reminders.

Training is key

Communication is vital for a successful return to work, but how can you ensure that your entire workforce is on the same page and knows about the new safety protocols and processes? This is where training comes in. Help your employees learn and adjust to the new ways of working by providing comprehensive virtual training sessions throughout the process. By offering clear and detailed training, you can help employees feel comfortable with the new set-up and help them understand the lengths that you have taken to ensure their safety.