How to make employees feel safe to return to work after lock down

Help reassure your staff and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the work place

The UK government recently updated its lockdown measures and now advise that those who cannot work from home can now return to work. While this will be welcome news to some employers, your employees might not have the same reaction.

Everyone, who is not a keyworker, has spent the last two months locked down in their own homes where they were able to completely control their environment to ensure that they protect themselves, and their household, from coronavirus. Returning to work, where they are no longer in control of the environment, could leave some employees anxious about whether it is actually safe for them to return to work.

The government has set out guidelines for employers on how they should be protecting their employees in the workplace.  It is essential as an employer to make sure you keep up to date with the latest government advice on working safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

covid19 worried about returning to work
covid19 returning to work

Where to start

In order to get people to return to their place of work the government have set out 5 key steps to working safely. By showing employees that you are following the guidelines set out by the government, you will help to reassure any anxiety they might have about returning to work. The best way to do is this to be clear and to be visual. It is ok to say you are following the guidance but if employees can’t ‘see’ that you are following it they may have some doubts and feel it’s not safe to return to work.

So in order to help make employees feel safe to return to work we have advised the best way you can show that you are following the government’s 5 key steps to working safely:

COVID19 risk assessment

1.  Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment

 By carrying out a risk assessment before employees return to work you will be able to see straight away what areas you will need to work on in order to protect your employees. It’s also advised to share the results of the assessment with your employees before they step foot back in the office.

This will clearly show employees that you are aware of the risks but, most importantly, that you highlight the changes that need to take place in order for them to safely return to work.  

You may also find that your employees are not fully aware of the government’s guidelines. It is easy for you to put up signs or posters in the work place so they can clearly see the rules that need to be followed. It is also a good idea to highlight guidance on the symptoms of COVID-19 and what staff members should do if they start to experience any of these symptoms. It is important that all employees are aware of what the procedures are now in place for protecting people in the work place.

covid19 wash hands

2. Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures

We have all been told time and time again by doctors, health professionals and the government that washing your hands with soap is the best way to protect yourself from spreading the virus. Make sure that you reiterate that advice to your employees and promote good hygiene practices. An easy way to do this is to put up hand wash posters in bathrooms to remind people to wash their hands and also advise the best way to wash their hands, as advised by the NHS.

You will also need to make sure that you introduce a cleaning schedule of any surfaces or equipment employees share or use regularly. This cleaning is essential to stop the spread of the virus in your work place. Think about setting a cleaning station where staff can easily access hand sanitiser or cleaning supplies. You can also have signage that advises an area has been cleaned.

covid19 working from home

3. Help people to work from home

The current advice still states that if employees can work from home, they should continue to do so.  Although it might be good for mental health to have employees come into the office, so they can feel like they are starting to return to some form of normality, this shouldn’t be forced.

Now is the time for employers to show their employees that they care about the health and wellbeing of their individual employees. Some might welcome the idea of coming back into the office, some might be nervous whereas some might be unable to due to not having childcare or being in the high risk group.

The best way to tackle this is to make sure you talk to your employees. What do they feel most comfortable doing? Can they do their job completely from home? You may find that there are some things your employee’s need that you have not thought of. Make sure they have all of the right equipment they need at home to work. Do they sit hunched over laptops? Maybe giving them a wireless mouse and keyboard with a laptop stand will help them work better and feel more like their work station in the office.  Can they adapt their hours to help them look after their children? If employees are willing to be flexible and do some work in the evenings when the kids are in bed, would that impact anyway on the day to day running of your business?

It is worth considering what ways your company can help people working from home. By allowing your employees to remain at home were possible will reassure them that you are taking their health and wellbeing seriously. It will also help if any staff members are worrying about work, it is important to help reduce their stress while we deal with this global pandemic.  Could they take a longer lunch break and make up the time later in the day so they can go out and exercise? Maybe you could have a weekly ‘drink’ over a video chat just to check in with everyone.

covid19 social distancing at work

4. Maintain two metres social distancing, where possible

Depending on the size of your business, this could be a tricky one. You may need to look at your office layout and consider moving furniture around. But before you start moving stuff around, be clear about who needs to be in the work place and how many people need to be there at any one time. If there is a minimum amount of people that you need, stick to that number.

Try to keep people in the same ‘teams’ if they are taking turns coming into work, this will help control the amount of social contact for employees. If will also be easier to control the spread if an employee falls ill with symptoms of COVID-19.

As per the governments advice make sure you clearly display signage advising people on the social distancing rules. Do you have customers that need to come into the work place? If so maybe use floor decals or stickers that are placed 2 metres apart to clearly show people how far apart they should stand. This will not only protect your customers but your staff as well. Try to keep appointments over video chat were possible. If this doesn’t work then limit them and make sure they only come into contact with employees they need to see, whilst maintain social distancing rules.

covid19 wearing a mask

5. Where people cannot be two metres apart, manage transmission risk

It is really important to implement the 2m rule where possible, however that might not always be doable. Try to keep appointments as short as possible and limit the amount of contact they have.  Where possible try to put up screens or ask people to wear face masks to try to limit the possible spread of coronavirus. Does your staff work on clusters of desks? Try to arrange it so staff are working back to back rather than facing each other over a desk, again this will keep the reduce risk of transmission between employees. 

Try to stagger start and finish times for staff so they can limit their contact at entrance ways. This is the same for lunch times so you can limit the amount of people in staff rooms or kitchens.

COVID-19 Coronavirus Label Signs and Posters

Pre-printed Signs & Floor Stickers

In order to help you advice employees of the government’s guidance on coronavirus and social distancing Avery has launched pre-printed COVID-19 labels signs and floor stickers that can be used in the work place. These include self-adhesive posters that can be stuck around the work place. These removable signs are available in A4, A3 and circular sizes.

We also have created some anti-slip floor stickers to highlight the rules on social distancing. These pre-printed floor decals stick securely and remove easily without leaving any residue. The hard wearing, anti-scuff material means they are perfect for high footfall areas.

Having visual signs and floor marking will clearly show staff and customers that you are following the above government guidelines and taking their health and well being seriously. During this difficult time people are taking their health more seriously and will remember employers or businesses that go out of their way to make them feel safe and protected.

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