How to transition back to working in the office post lockdown. Tips for employees and managers.
We have all experienced massive changes since March, we haven’t been able to see friends or family, we haven’t been able to go to the shops. Even our shopping habits have changed, we are now less likely to pop into the supermarket for one or two items we forgot in the main shop.
After 4 months of lockdown, we are beginning to see the restrictions lift. On July 4th pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, and other retail locations were allowed to reopen. The minimum distance to be kept was changed from 2 metres to 1 metre plus. This means in places where it is not possible to stay 2 metres apart other measures should be put in place – this includes putting plastic screens up, encouraging everyone to wear a face covering, and regular hand hygiene.
Whilst the restrictions are gradually lifting, the changes to our personal lives, such as regular hand washing, seem unlikely to change anytime soon. Yet for many businesses, the current way of working is unsustainable. As the retail world gradually reopens, many office-based companies will begin to consider if, how, and when they will ask employees to come back in.
As of August 1st, it is believed that businesses will be able to decide whether they are ready for staff to come back into the office. Having spent the majority of 2020 inside their own homes, employees will likely be nervous about returning to the office. The way we go about our lives now is far different to how we acted 6 months ago, so it will take time to readjust. We can’t expect to switch back to how we lived and acted in 2019 overnight.
Please be aware, the current advice, at the time of writing, states that your employer must follow COVID-19 Secure guidelines.
If you feel your employer is endangering you by asking you to return without proper guidelines in place you can report your employer to your local authority.
It is advised companies do not open if it is not necessary, or safe to do so.
We must all be prepared that returning to work will be a period of transition, rather than a quick change. We need to expect that it will take both mental and physical preparation to help ease us into the transition.
By no means should we expect going back to the office to be returning to normal, because whilst the virus is still a threat to public safety there will be many precautions set out for businesses to follow. Offices will have to start reopening if they are not adequately prepared for a permanent remote workforce.
For employees we recommend the following:
Check your battery is still running. If you did not regularly run your car for intervals of approximately 30 minutes during lockdown then your battery may have gone flat.
- If it does go flat, try and get it started, by pushing or jump starting it, and drive around for 45 minutes to try and recharge the battery.
- There is a chance this will not rescue your battery so do not turn your engine off in an unsafe, or distant location! If this is the case you will need to replace your battery.
Check your oil, wiper fluid, and brake fluid etc.
Check your brakes.They may have seized up if the car hasn’t been driven in a while!
Try getting up earlier every day until you go back, and of course go to sleep earlier so you’re well rested!
Try and find something easy to prepare, that can be easily reheated or eaten in the office.
If you decide to go to the shop for lunch, don’t forget to bring a face covering – if you don’t have a mask this can be a scarf in a pinch! Also remember to sanitise your hands or wash them thoroughly before and after going to the shop!
(see government advice on face coverings here)
Most of us have probably been wearing far more relaxed clothes than we would in the office during lockdown, make sure you find something comfortable but suitable. Also don’t forget to check the forecast before as the weather has been rather changeable recently!
If your office share bathrooms with another office, or if a large amount of you share a bathroom from one office, there is a higher risk of spreading disease. Ask your manager what the plan is for this – is there going to be more regular cleaning? Are they providing paper towels?
Consider leaving some hand sanitiser on your desk so you can cleanse your hands after coming back from the bathroom and other communal places. Also consider bringing your own hand towel to leave at your desk so you don’t have to share.
However, it is your employers responsibility to ensure the office environment and all communal areas are safe and clean for you to use!
Has your employer carried our the proper checks and put reasonable precautions in place to make sure the office is safe to work in?
Do you feel comfortable going back into the office?
Is it possible to only come in a few days a week – potentially always working with the same people so there are less people in communal areas?
For managers/employers, we recommend you:
How do they feel about coming back?
Can they continue to work effectively from home, at least part-time?
This includes: hand sanitiser, antibacterial wipes, paper towels for bathrooms etc
Get the office cleaned thoroughly, more regularly, especially in communal areas (staff room, kitchen, bathroom etc)
Some examples are:
- If possible, create a one-way system through the office
- Avoid having employees sit face to face, if screens can be put in place do so.
- Only have face to face meetings with customers or partners if absolutely necessary, avoid having walk-ins – try to keep having video meetings instead
- Avoid letting employees share workstations
- Put signs up to remind employees of social distancing guidelines
Do employees need to be in all 5 days a week?
A slow transition, gradually working up to 5 days may help minimise transmission of disease and help employees reacquaint themselves with office life
Invest in good technology to enable hybrid or total remote working.
Read our blog about remote working here!
To conclude, ideally companies should avoid reintroducing staff to the office until there is a vaccine for coronavirus, but that is not possible for everyone. Employees should take a week to prepare for their first day back, it will no doubt. be a shock to the system for many. Employers should ensure all staff feel comfortable with returning to work. They should take necessary precautions and measures, as set out in government guidance, to ensure employees are safe. Where possible employers should consider remote working as a permanent fixture within the business and make adequate preparations for this.