As our lockdown restrictions start easing up from level 4 to level 3 and more industries start coming back online, we as employees and employers find ourselves in a very anxious position, as we try to navigate through this unchartered territory known as the “new normal”.
So, what does this new normal look like?
Well firstly, there’s nothing normal about it. Humans by nature are social beings – especially in the workplace. This is where we spend a large portion of our lives – apart from our bedrooms. Initially lockdown restricted these social freedoms from our personal lives albeit for the foreseeable future however, these measures will be far more stringent in the workplace and will become the standard operating procedure for at least the remainder of 2020.
Secondly, the landscape and how we conduct business, interact with staff and even where we work from will change and become rather impersonal.
Whether we buy into the propaganda of this virus or not, we as responsible business need to ensure that our premises are ready to welcome back staff, customers and service providers alike but where do we start?
First and foremost before any staff member or visitor sets foot on your premises, you need to prepare your business and ensure that it’s a completely safe environment to work in. This can be done by putting together a detailed risk and hazard assessment of your workplace, identifying risks, setting out the decisions you have taken from a health and safety perspective and why.
For example: The entrance to your workplace poses a major risk. Staff who use public transport enter through this access point as well as visitors and service providers – all of which you have no control of outside your premises. They may or may not come into contact with people infected with Covid-19 but every situation needs to be addressed as if it’s the worst case scenario. Now that you’ve identified this risk, you need to present recommendations on how to eliminate the risk.
You can setup an employee/visitor screening station. Here you will screen everyone entering your premises by taking their temperature, asking them if they’re experiencing any of the Covid-19 symptoms, request that they wear a face mask and then sanitise their hands before entering. Now this is a very elementary example but it can be broken down into far greater detail should you need to. The reality is that this will be very different for each industry and every situation must be looked at individually.
Thereafter, you will need to formulate this into a Return to Work policy and Workplace Plan. The purpose of these documents is to outline the measures and rules you have put into place to avoid the spread of Covid-19 in your workplace.
Now that you’ve implemented your procedures, you need to educate your staff and ensure that they understand what is required from them whilst at work. Highlight the risks you have identified and discuss the measures you have taken in detail. Provide educational material through regular talks and displays throughout the workplace, highlighting good hygiene practices, coughing/sneezing etiquette, how to wear and dispose of face masks and general information on the virus. The more equipped your staff are with information, the safer your workplace will ultimately be.
Now this phrase pretty much sums up 2020 quite perfectly and as I mentioned before, goes against every fibre of our beings – even the introverts can agree. To ensure that businesses are able to maintain social distancing protocols, you will need to look at every aspect of your business and implement specific strategies to ensure the wellbeing of our staff and business are at the forefront of any decision you make.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Stagger tea and lunch breaks to help relieve the amount of staff using canteens at the same time.
- Take a holistic look at your business practices and identify departments and personnel that are able to work remotely (even if it’s a few days a week).
- Internal and external meetings should be limited and social platforms such as Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom should be utilised more.
One thing is for sure, when this virus has come and gone, we will hopefully start appreciating the smaller, less important gestures we have taken for granted – the handshake or even the hug. These will have so much more meaning in the future apart from being just a simple greeting.
REUSABLE FACE MASKS
The latest fashion accessory that has consumed this world – and not by choice either. Whether it’s through choice or not, studies have shown and proven that countries that have adopted the use of face masks, have noticeably slowed the progress of the virus within their communities. So much so, most countries have made the use of face masks mandatory when leaving the house – including our own.
Businesses returning to work, will be required to supply each staff member with a minimum of 2 reusable face masks, so this is a great opportunity for you to either get your brand out there or create a little fun within an environment that is in desperate need for a little bit of normality.
These are scary times and none of us are going to adapt to these changes seamlessly. We need to summon the spirit of the rugby world cup final and believe that we are stronger together. Stay safe everyone!