Beyond lockdown: Do employees fear returning to work?

Wednesday May 27, 2020

If your business has been interrupted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we know that you may be eager to reopen or scale up operations as soon as possible.

Perhaps you have already been in touch with employees about their return to work since the recent ease in lockdown restrictions?

Earlier this month the prime minister announced that those (within permitted sectors) who cannot work from home should be encouraged back to work. This week it was revealed that all non-
essential shops will be allowed to open in England from mid-June, subject to meeting safety guidelines. Some outdoor workplaces in Scotland are expected to reopen this week as phase one of the route map is initiated.

With much of life having been put on hold since the pandemic began, we understand the relief this statement will have brought many employers who are keen to get back to business.

However, bringing employees back to work may not be so straightforward.

Fear of returning to work

Employers may find that not all employees are so keen to restart their daily commute back to work.
As although we are past the peak of the virus, a heightened threat level remains in place and some people may feel anxious about re-entering society after time in isolation.

Understanding how best to manage this can improve the chances of having employees transition back to work smoothly. It can also save time on day one when you need people to be in place and
their attention to be on work.

The following can help to provide peace of mind for both you and your employees as we move through the second stage of recovery and see some sectors start to revive.

Making the business COVID secure

Social distancing and frequent handwashing continue to be fundamental in controlling the spread of the virus, but there is much more to be understood when it comes to making the workplace COVID
secure.

Seeking a professionally advised COVID risk assessment is an essential first step employers should take before reopening the workplace. Our sister company, The H&S Dept, can walk you through what you need to do to make your business COVID secure and clarify your obligations under health and safety law.

Sharing your actions as a result of your risk assessment can help to calm employees’ nerves about returning to work.

Making time for mental health

Mental health is just as important as physical health. Everyone has it and needs to take care of it.
During times of crisis this needs even more attention. Coronavirus affects mental health too and the well-being of each employee could be at stake.

By making time for mental health, employers can support employees and ease anxieties about returning to work.

It is a good idea to provide awareness education and training for all employees and let everyone know who they can talk to should they have a problem, or concerns for another member of staff. An
open and non-judgemental environment that acknowledges life is not so normal right now will help.

Adapting to the ‘new normal’

It has been advised that, wherever possible, people avoid public transport if social distancing can not take place. Naturally, your employees might be wondering how they are going to get to work on
time, which can create added pressure during an already stressful period.

You may like to consider flexible working or staggered shifts to help employees with their journey back into work. Alternatively, the coronavirus job retention scheme is still open. Continuing to furlough some staff could also be an option, particularly for those whose children are not back in school.

We know that ultimately you would like employees to be back in work and raring to go when the time comes. Just remember that they could be returning to a very different way of working. Some
care and consideration can help to see employees happy, healthy, and working well. If you have questions about best practice HR when bringing employees back to work, ask us.

 

Preventing People Problems

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