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How Back to Work Will be Far From Back to Normal

7 May 2020 4 min read

Back to work not back to normal

The nation is getting ready for the Government to announce its plans for ease of lockdown restrictions this Sunday. Given the cautious nature of steps currently taken in the UK, many will be concerned with the impact any potential changes could have on their daily lives. However, if the health emergency has taught the world of business anything, it is to come ready and prepared. So, regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s announcement, businesses will be stepping up plans in anticipation of the day they are told their employees may return to the office.

Deciding where to start in this preparation can be tough, particularly if the business might be liable if they can’t demonstrate an adequate duty of care. Below are some considerations for leaders to ensure the return to near-normality is as smooth as it can be.

Sickness tracking, no longer a ‘nice to have’

It is the responsibility of any business to ensure their employees are safe at work. The likelihood that COVID-19 will have disappeared from the UK by the time we start returning to work is slim. Therefore, the chances that your workforce could contract the virus are still significant, especially with the addition of commuting putting them at risk of contact with those that are infected.

Companies should take the opportunity to properly update their sickness strategy and internal processes. If an employee displays coronavirus-type symptoms your infrastructure needs to be adapted to support decisive action and communication. Static spreadsheets and paper will no longer suffice in dealing with the challenge of properly tracking employee sickness and the risk it may have on other colleagues.

A system that automatically updates the management of employee symptoms will be essential. In turn, it will help make decisions on whether whole teams should remain at home if presumed to have come into contact with coronavirus. It will be the workplace’s responsibility to help the nation contain the spread of the virus to our vulnerable population.

Flexibility with remote working

This crisis has proved that employees can be productive and still work from home. Comments in the media of individuals feeling anxious at the notion of returning to the office are rife. Naturally, there is concern from those who do not wish to put their loved ones at risk, but equally, perhaps because many of us have become accustomed and comfortable working from home, we do not want to consider change at this time.

Whatever the reason may be, the idea of switching from home to office in one swift step will greaten the potential negative impact the entire UK workforce returning to work might have. Thinking up intelligent shift patterns, and having fewer people in the office will also compliment current social distancing measures, while also reducing the number of people using public transport during their commute.

Some colleagues may want to rush back to see each other and re-activate the workplace social routines, but business needs to think through flexible working from home and office policies carefully, without creating stress for the workforce. Clear communication of employee absence, whether WFH, in-office, sick, or on leave will benefit the health and wellbeing of staff, allowing them to work to the best of their ability at such difficult times as well as manage team resources.

Time to evaluate

Taking the time now to assess what went well and what did not will prove valuable, and having a continuity plan will make businesses more resilient in the future. The lack of tech infrastructure for many made the move to remote working very difficult, many relying on employees to use their personal computers for work, presenting obvious security threats to confidential data they may have access to. Equally those businesses relying on paper processes to track and manage staff leave and sickness would have seen their procedures fall by the wayside immediately and now will be playing admin catch up for quite some time. These are just two examples of areas that can be easily rectified but are tough to manage when the crisis hits

Now is a great time to look at where the business needs investment, which need not be expensive or time-consuming but will enable organizations to be far more proactive next time around, ensuring ‘business as usual’ when actually it is anything but.

With complete sickness tracking, wellbeing, and reporting tools, Edays is ready to help your business and employees through a far from a normal back-to-work environment. See Edays in action.

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Katrina Bennett People Director at edays
May 7, 2020

Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.