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Returning to work post lockdown

 

Author: North East Business & Innovation Centre Ltd

After spending months in lockdown and dealing with the challenges of being furloughed, remote working and adapting to new ways of working, many organisations are now looking to bring back their workforce in a safe and cautious manner.

Of course, things won’t instantly go back to how they were prior to lockdown and not every business feels comfortable reopening at the moment.

Our homes have been our only safe haven for so long, making us feel a whole range of emotions, and for every person who can’t wait to get back to work, there’s another who has serious concerns about returning.

It’s only natural that the thought of returning to the workplace is making people feel confused, worried and apprehensive, but there’s lots you can do to prepare and guide your team through this transition, helping them to acclimatise and get back in the zone.

Create a safe environment for your team
Companies have a legal duty to provide a safe working environment for their employees, and when lockdown restrictions started to ease in May, the Government produced safety guidelines to follow for those businesses who were able to start re-opening.

More and more organisations will now be considering a range of adjustments to the way they work as well as the physical adaptions to the work premises. These adjustments will depend on the job and individual circumstances.

The BIC has helped some of its tenants to reconfigure their office space as well as making its own workspace adaptions to protect its own workforce, visitors and tenants, and will continually review these measures and adapt as required.

For guidelines on adapting your workspace visit the Government website.

Plan and communicate
Being Covid-safe with social distancing, face masks, sanitisers etc. doesn’t always equate to feeling safe, so communication with your team has never been more vital.

Be sure to check in on how they’re feeling both before and after their return.

Explain what safety measures have been put in place, involve them in your plans, make them aware of what to expect when they return, what or who they may see and what will be different.

Having possibly worked at a different pace over the last few months, it’s important to agree clear goals and bring them up to speed with the company’s current objectives and priorities too.

This will help motivate them and give them a clear focus.

Be flexible
We expect to see more flexible working in the future. Where business needs allow, some organisations are providing staff with a choice of where and how they work for the tasks they need to complete and despite the fact that technologies allow teams to collaborate and meet virtually, people do miss their usual workspace and colleagues.

You may wish to consider phased returns, staggered work patterns, rotas and remote working, allowing social distancing and a gradual return for your team.

Not everyone has the space at home and remote working is not suitable for everyone, so try and have a personalised approach to ensure the return to work plan is developed with the individuals and business needs in mind.

Lots of people are craving some sort of normality and returning to work whether it be full or part time is a huge part of that process and routine.

Remember, the whole idea of this approach is you can adapt accordingly. So hold regular reviews and make any necessary adjustments to keep your team feeling safe and secure.

Physical and mental well-being
It’s not uncommon for people to have increased anxiety when returning to work following long periods of absence. And with the additional risk and worry the pandemic has caused, its vital employers introduce long-term strategies to safeguard and manage the physical and emotional health and well-being of their employees.

Understanding the signs and when to ask for help is not always easy, so your staff may not be forthcoming in sharing their feelings with you. At the BIC we have various qualified mental health first aiders providing employees with confidential advice and support where appropriate. This may be something you wish to consider within your own organisation.

Be aware of what professional mental health services are available. The BIC is home to over 140 companies covering a huge array of sectors and services, including Counselling Services so you might even find what you’re looking for, right here on your doorstep.

And finally, remember everyone is unique and deals with change and challenges differently. We have a long journey ahead, take one step at a time, be kind to yourself and others around you. Further advice can be found here.

If you’re not quite ready to return to the workplace, here are some great tips on maintaining workflow.

Please ensure you follow the guidance of your local authority to protect yourselves and others. 

To find out more about the business support and office space available at the BIC visit website or call 0191 516 6200