A safe return to the workplace
28 April 2021
IHASCO’S HEAD of business development, Alex Wilkins, outlines some key advice for business owners and managers when it comes to preparing for a return to the workplace and easing employees back to work.
There is no denying that COVID-19 has had a huge impact on all of our lives, and just over one year on from the first lockdown we can see that it’s still presenting a challenge in our professional and personal lives. As the roadmap out of lockdown is beginning to take effect, and the vaccination programme continues with success, many businesses are beginning to look at what the future may hold.
But how a business prepares and handles a return to work can make all the difference to the outcome and level of success. There’s three clear areas that organisations can look at to help transition employees back to the workplace both smoothly and successfully.
Many businesses will have already completed a COVID risk assessment, but it is essential to revisit these and ensure all safety measures are still effective. It is also vital that you communicate these measures to employees so they accept the controls in place and follow them. Providing this information to employees in advance of their return allows them to question anything they are unsure of or concerned by. It will give them the confidence and trust to return, as well as promote a positive safety culture, which is crucial.
In practice, each workplace differs which means they will need to create their own unique risk assessment. Keeping an eye on the government guidelines is essential, as advice often changes and adapts, so regularly reviewing your risk assessment is a must. All businesses are expected to implement COVID-secure measures and take sensible precautions to reduce the risk of transmitting Coronavirus. The safety of employees and any customers or visitors to the workplace must be at the heart of planning a reopening.
Provide and refresh training
When the time comes to welcome employees back to the workplace, there may be a need for refresher training, particularly in the area of health and safety. Display Screen Equipment and Fire Awareness training will be required, to meet legal obligations, and should form part of an induction when staff return. Additional training needs should also be considered. For example training on infection prevention and control and mental health awareness could also be of use to support employees with their return. After listening to client feedback, iHASCO created a short Returning to Work training course last summer to help support employees transition back to the workplace after some time away due to COVID-19. The online, IOSH approved course provides advice for employees in relation to what to expect and how they can make a smooth and safe return back to work. It covers communication, handling anxiety, COVID risk assessments & policies, staying productive and much more.
Training can help employees feel more confident and comfortable about their return to work. Online training is a small investment but can have a big impact.
A return to work is going to cause a mixture of both positive and negative emotions for your employees. Employers need to be mindful about any emotional challenges or mental health concerns employees may have. Signpost employees to where they can get support within the organisation or elsewhere and encourage open conversations to help your employees feel cared for and valued. Back to work interviews and 1-1 meetings can help employees settle quickly. For more guidance and information about easing employees back to work after a prolonged period of time off and how to support them emotionally and physically download iHASCO’s returning to work white paper.
Getting your employees back to work as soon as possible is good for business but needs to be approached in the right way. Not only is the transition likely to be much smoother if you spend some time planning for a return and managing employee expectations, but the more chance you have of keeping staff safe and productive too.
Whether you are looking for advice, resources or online training, iHASCO is here to support your business. Over the last year we have helped thousands of organisations with their health, safety and compliance training in the COVID pandemic.
Visit www.ihasco.co.uk to see how we can help you.