Like no other year, 2020 saw our ways of life turned upside down. Work and home routines have changed for many. Lots of us have now spent more time working from home during the past year than we have in the workplace. But with an ever-changing health climate, small businesses must consider the ongoing pandemic and what that means for employees returning to the workplace safely.
With infection rates still high, safety is at the forefront of everyone’s minds - so what can be done to ensure a safe return to the workplace for your employees? We’ve listed below five important points for consideration:
1. Carry out a coronavirus risk assessment
If you’re looking to bring employees back to the workplace, then a risk assessment is crucial to ensure their safe return. Employers will need to identify which circumstances may cause transmission of the virus, think about who could be most at risk, and how likely it is that someone could be exposed.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides some useful guidance on how to put together a COVID-19 risk assessment, and what it should include. You’ll need to keep your risk assessment under constant review and follow the latest government and Public Health England guidance to manage your workplace environment.
2. Update your health and safety policy
When you’re building out your risk assessment, it’s useful to update your health and safety policies too – there’s likely to be some crossover. And don’t forget to keep your workforce up to date with any policy changes so that everyone can play their part in ensuring the workplace is a safe place. Taking into account government guidance, there are three key areas to focus on:
- Hygiene: undertaking regular deep cleans, providing hand sanitiser throughout the workplace, reducing touch-points on doors and light switches and ensuring employees clean down their workspaces at the end of each day.
- Social distancing: reducing crowds via booking systems for desks and meeting rooms, one way systems and floor stickers.
- Mental wellbeing: providing opportunities to talk and offering training for line managers and support for all employees to help them understand and recognise potential mental health impacts.
3. Keep employees informed
Just like you are expected to provide a safe place for your employees to work, your staff are responsible for their own health and safety. But this means you need to stay on top of regular communication and training for employees.
Start by putting in place a re-induction process for staff returning to work, whether they’re coming back from furlough or returning to the workplace after working from home. Hold return-to-work conversations with staff to discuss what the first day back will look like and any changes in procedures. Be sure to share your revised policy with your workforce directly via email communications and if you have a staff intranet system, upload this version.
4. Reassure your workforce with access to discounted antibody tests
In a recent survey of UK adults, 62% said they would feel more comfortable returning to work if they were offered an antibody test. Similarly, 82% of large employers are already considering introducing antibody testing as part of their back-to-work strategy. These tests can determine if someone has had COVID-19 and developed antibodies which are still present in their body.
Together with Square Health, we’re able to offer Simplyhealth customers an antibody test approved by Public Health England for half the normal price. Find out how the antibody test works.
5. Offer mental health and wellbeing support
It’s to be expected that your workforce will have mixed feelings about returning to work. Some may be eager to get back to a normal way of working. Others may have concerns about the safety of being back in the workplace and how this could affect them and their family’s health.
A recent study by TalkOut found that over a third of UK workers reported a deterioration in their mental health since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, more than two-thirds felt anxious and apprehensive about returning to work.
The support you provide is key. Schedule regular check-ins with employees and share information on how access to relevant tools and resources to support their mental, financial and physical wellbeing. Offering external support in the form of an Employee Assistance Programme that provides easy access to advice and counselling services can be beneficial to employees needing a safe space to turn to for help and advice.
Take a look at our mental health resources and find out how Simplyhealth can support your small business with health and wellbeing.
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