Employers are now required to make significant changes to the ways that their workplaces look and operate to comply with new HSE regulations designed to stop the spread of Coronavirus. The Government has published a series of helpful guides to give businesses a detailed overview of how to make their premises COVID Secure.
While the situation is constantly evolving, these guides give businesses the clearest picture yet of the precautions that they need to take to operate safely as the lock-down gradually eases. In this blog, we’ll detail some of the biggest adjustments you’ll need to make.
Help Your Employees To Keep Their Distance
Before Coronavirus, some of us probably would have been glad of the opportunity to keep 2m away from people who we didn’t know when using public spaces.
The lock down has brought us closer than ever before. We have seen people reaching out to fellow humans who they never would have spoken to in previous months. Engaging in extraordinary acts of kindness has become part of the ‘new normal’.
Unfortunately, this closeness has been mostly metaphorical, as the Government has asked us to stay at home as much as possible and keep a ‘social distance’ of 2m from anyone we don’t live with. These guidelines are carried through to workplaces that are steadily reopening.
When welcoming your employees back you should consider;
• Using screens to shield employees from each other and allow them to maintain a 2m distance while working. Space desks 2m apart to allow any office workers who absolutely cannot work from home to maintain social distancing.
• Promote back-to-back working over face-to-face working to further reduce the risk of Coronavirus transmission.
• Stagger shifts to reduce crowding in communal areas.
• Use multiple entrances to further reduce crowding.
• Plan parking – if people’s cars are parked barely 2m from each other, this will do your social distancing enforcement strategy no favours whatsoever. Try to create additional parking space where possible. If this is not practical, then create space for bike racks and encourage your staff to walk to work if possible.
• Using screens to protect your employees for customers if they are serving them directly at the till (in a shop or garage for example)
• Stagger break times to reduce the size of employee gatherings in places to eat and canteens. Serve pre-packaged food to close-off as much of your canteen as possible. Tables in any areas of your canteen which remain open should be spaced 2m apart
• Reducing time spent on equipment
• Organise your teams to reduce the number of people that each employee meets and works with each day.
These social distancing measures will impose a short-term financial cost on your business and may also decrease your productivity. However, they will allow you to open safely and continue doing business as this crisis enters its next stage. You should balance this social distancing bill with the potential financial and reputational costs of closing completely until a vaccine is found.
If you want to remain open, provide your customers with excellent service, and guarantee your employees a safe place to work, then you must accept these costs as part of the new conditions that we are all working through. If you don’t follow these new guidelines, you are risking huge fines from the HSE and the possibility of your business being forced to close forever. Nobody wants that.
My Workplace Was Already Clean? Do I Need To Take Further Hygiene Precautions Because Of Coronavirus?
Nobody is suggesting that your workplace wasn’t maintained to the highest standards of hygiene and cleanliness. What we are suggesting is that one or more of your employees might accidentally and completely unknowingly carry a sub-microscopic virus into one of your buildings and leave it on a door handle. At this point, it could then be picked up by several of your other employees who touched the same door handle. Next thing you know, you’ve got four confirmed cases of a potentially deadly pandemic at your site and the TV news crews are on the way. This would probably rank amongst the worst ever starts to your Monday.
Here are the simple hygiene precautions that you can take to ensure that Coronavirus isn’t unwittingly carried into your workplace.
• Provide all employees with hand sanitising gel on entry and exit from your premises
• Encourage regular hand washing for 20 seconds
• Ensure that any surfaces that your employees might touch are regularly cleaned with disinfectant throughout the day. These include doors, door handles and window locks and furniture as well as all the surfaces that would always be cleaned at least once a day in normal circumstances.
• Discourage eating on the premises – this will significantly reduce the likelihood of your employees touching their faces or mouths during the day. This will prevent a lovely sandwich from becoming covered in a rather unappetising virus dressing.
Encourage Working From Home
Where possible, you should be encouraging your employees to work from home. The fewer people you have on your premises, the lower the risk of the virus spreading around your workplace becomes. While the lock down came as a shock to many businesses, working from home is providing them with a few benefits.
Now is a perfect time for enterprises to upgrade their IT systems. It is highly likely that future threats to the UK will come from cyber-crime and possibly even cyber-attacks. By ensuring that large numbers of your employees can work remotely on a secure and properly encrypted IT system, you can give your business the best possible protection from these digital threats. An existing relationship with an IT support provider will also make it far easier to respond quickly to any criminal activities which your business might fall victim to. This will also offer your company greater protection long-term or irreparable damage as a result of these crimes. Improved tech will also allow you to streamline more efficient communication across your entire business.
The coming days and weeks also provide an ideal moment for a review of whether you really need your offices. Are there opportunities to add money which would have gone on rent and bills to your bottom line?
A third benefit is the time that you could save by moving non-essential meetings to platforms such as Zoom. Imagine how much more you could get done if you could cut an hour’s travel and twenty minutes of pleasantries from each of your meetings?
Why not use this time to explore how home working could enable you to enter the ‘new’ normal as a leaner, more productive and ultimately, a more profitable organisation?
Talk To Your Teams Before Asking Them To Come Back On Site Or Into The Office
Many people are worried about whether spending more time out of the house will increase their risk of catching COVID-19. Even though your newly adapted workplace will meet all of the Government’s
COVID Secure guidelines, your employees will still be worried about their own health and their family’s safety at this time. What if they bring the virus into their home after work?
If your employees can’t focus on their work because they’re stressed about the pandemic, then your productivity will suffer even greater losses than you were already expecting because of social distancing.
It is important to talk to your employees. Only ask them to come back into work if they are totally comfortable with leaving home during the present crisis. By showing your people that you care about them when they are most in need of your understanding, you’ll gain a stronger, more committed team in the long-term.
Remember That Making Money Isn’t A Matter Of Life Or Death
The crushing financial losses that the pandemic is inflicting on the global economy are already putting paid to many organisations’ 2020 profit targets. These staggering losses are difficult to understand, let alone accept. As difficult as is it for entrepreneurs to see so much of their hard work go up in smoke in this way, the newly-eased lock down gives business owners a great opportunity to take a long walk in the park and reflect on what’s most important in life.
Financial losses can always be recouped. Once lives are lost, they are lost forever. We all want to get back to business as quickly as possible, but we are living through one of the worst public health crises in living memory. The most important thing that we can do is to work together to reduce the human cost of Coronavirus and then recoup the financial cost later.
If you need any help in getting your business ready for life post-lock down, please get in touch with our team today. We want to support as many businesses as possible as we all get back to something approaching normal.
If you think I might be able to give you some support and advice as you rebuild your business, please call me on 07738 279413 or email Kate@kagrecruitmentconsultancy.co.uk.