COVID-19 has changed the way that we work in the UK – potentially for the long term. With around 30% of the UK, workforce thought to have been furloughed as a result of the imposition of the lockdown the learning curve has been steep in terms of firms looking for ways to survive this incredibly trying time. However, with the government advice now shifting from ‘stay at home ‘to ‘stay alert’ and several workers starting to return to their workplace the question of how to prepare a business for life after lockdown is pressing.
Making physical premises safe
Depending on the nature of your business the first step is likely to involve looking at how your premises can be made safe for a return of staff and customers or clients. For example, it will be necessary to ensure that additional hygiene measures can be put in place and social distancing safely observed. This may mean using PPE, staggering staff on shifts, introducing new cleaning schedules or restricting the number of customers or visitors. You may also need to remove certain features that present a specific risk, such as revolving doors.
Restructuring the workforce
For most businesses, life after lockdown simply isn’t going to look the same as it did before. It may be necessary to restructure a workforce it might be important to consider who should return first. These staff will need sufficient notice to prepare for a physical return to work e.g. to make childcare arrangements and it’s important to be clear about the reasons why some people are returning to work and others not.
A safe environment for employees
The impact of COVID-19 – and lockdown – on employee physical and mental health should not be overlooked. Staff may have lost loved ones, been sick themselves or developed anxiety about using public transport or being in crowded spaces. It’s essential to ensure that there are resources in place to monitor and support employee mental health and to help manage expectations concerning career development and work satisfaction. It’s worth noting when vaccines and antibody tests do become available, employers cannot currently force employees to undergo medical procedures like this without consent so this will need to be built into the business’ ongoing response.
Life after lockdown appears to be beginning and every business needs to be prepared.