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As many businesses begin the slow process of returning to work and bringing employees back from remote working or furlough, there are many areas to think about to ensure businesses are protected and employees are kept safe and well.

Return to work – things to think about
There are many practical areas which companies need to consider, for example, how to re-open mothballed premises now that lockdown is easing; checking that keyholder details for alarms are up to date, electricity and heating are up and running and that CCTV cameras are unobscured and working effectively.

There is plenty of Government guidance provided for how to make workplaces safe to avoid the spread of Covid-19 as well, which needs to be met before companies can begin to think about bringing people back into workspaces.

Many companies have been relying on the Government’s financial support schemes, some of which are now changing as we move out of lockdown so it’s important that all businesses keep up to date with their entitlements and keep in touch with their employees regarding any potential changes.

Supporting staff health and wellbeing
Most importantly, companies need to support their employees who are coming back into the workplace as some may be excited while others could be very anxious about the thought of mixing with other people. Those still working from home also have ongoing stresses and strains.

Nearly half of adults in the UK have suffered from anxiety problems because of the coronavirus pandemic – according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) 47 per cent of people had reported “high levels” of anxiety1.

Charity Anxiety UK found that the idea of coming out of lockdown sparked anxiety in 67% of people with 55% saying they had got used to being at home and now feared the idea of using public transport, going shopping or going to social events2.

It’s important that employers acknowledge their people could be feeling any of these emotions, and work to support mental wellbeing by making use of their existing health benefits which may include online medical appointments, and counselling services.

Communicating clearly about all the measures which will be in place to protect people who do return, and keeping those at home engaged, can go a long way to helping them to feel safe and valued by the company, reducing some of the uncertainty.

Remote working – areas of concern
With many people continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future, it’s important for companies to protect their people and their business from increasing cybercrime. It’s been reported that 42%3 of people have been the target of scammers since the Covid-19 outbreak. From fake calls to scam texts.

If teams are facing a much longer-term stint of working from home than was originally planned, the company also needs to have plans in place to keep them engaged and connected with the company on a regular basis.

Supporting those people who can’t return to work
While the return to work might be easy for some employees, there will be others who have more complicated situations at home, such as those with children who are still off school, those who care for family members who are vulnerable to Covid-19 and those who have their own underlying health conditions to think about. Employers will need to look at the risks and solutions for all individual circumstances when planning a phased return to work.

Legal issues
There is the potential for new HR issues to arise around any return to work plan, perhaps with some people not willing to return to the office if they have been successfully working from home for months, or others who refuse to accept that it’s safe to do so.

Employers would be sensible to try to foresee some of the issues which could arise and to talk with HR and employment law specialists to make sure they know where they stand. 

Online hub
An online hub has been set up containing all the advice and guidance which businesses need to know about, set up by Towergate Health & Protection, which is continually updated and is free to access.

Brett Hill, Distribution Director – Towergate Health & Protection

Sources

1. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/05/1063882

2. https://theguideliverpool.com/some-tips-on-how-to-deal-with-coming-out-of-lockdown-anxiety/

3. https://www.tsb.co.uk/news-releases/brits-concerned-by-fraud-during-covid-19/

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