As we continue to reopen workplaces and learn to live with Covid-19, there are many considerations and adjustments that need to be made. Being prepared for the various and sometimes complex measures to re-opening safely is vital. Our last Supporters Network Webinar was on this topic; speakers offered guidance and answered questions using their various areas of expertise in environmental health, transport, workers’ rights and implementation of the measures. The key points from this discussion are summarised below, along with a list of valuable resources and the full video recording.
Consider the risk of employee commutes.
Prior to the pandemic, many organisations may not have factored the employees’ commute into their workplace health and safety plans. However, how people get to work now comes with Covid-19 risk factors, and needs to be seen as an integral part of the working day. Keeping informed with the latest travel guidance, and factoring this into reopening plans is key to a safe reopening.
Due to social distancing measures reducing the capacity of public transport, there must be flexibility in return approaches. Depending on employee preference and risk level, this could mean continued remote work, or staggered working hours to avoid peak commuting times. This will be particularly poignant when schools reopen; official guidance states that employees should be encouraged to travel at alternative times to students, to reduce risk and congestion. Overall, alongside these potential measures, there must be a change to approach. Effective leadership and line management will accommodate flexibility due to travel disruptions, as we continue to navigate through uncertain and changing times.
Develop strong risk assessments.
Creating a detailed risk assessment will ensure an organisation is prepared to anticipate potential risks. Finding an online template to create this may be valuable in providing a framework, however these documents must be worked upon thoroughly to suit specific requirements. Importantly, they must be developed in partnership and consultation with employees.
For example, rather than stating the use of an enhanced cleaning regime, an employer must state what specifically that entails – does this mean screens, separated tables, or hand sanitiser stations? Will measures be implemented by cleaning staff, or do employees have personal responsibility for up-keeping this too? Providing detailed approaches for these measures will encourage employees to know that plans are specific, well informed, and will be followed through.
Personalise your return approach.
Communicating with employees is important when creating a return plan. This can be done through conversations and surveys, and assessing this feedback will to help understand priorities and potential anxieties. Placing employee voice at the heart of reopening plans ensures that everybody feels as safe and supported as possible, during what is an uncertain time for all.
The return plan will simultaneously need to avoid assumptions or a blanket approach; there will be employees anxious regarding a return to the office alongside those who are struggling to work from home. Direct feedback is vital for this, as some apprehensions may be specific to different workplaces, sectors or locations. Understanding these concerns, and using them to shape future plans in accordance with official guidance, is key to reopening safely.
- Aaron Williams, Environmental Health Business Advice Officer at Manchester City Council
- Gareth Turner, Head of Travel Change at Transport for Greater Manchester
- Carrie Westwell, Director of People and Culture at Peel L & P
- Doug Russell, Health and Safety Officer at USDAW (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
- TfGM: Greater Manchester, Working Differently (benefits to businesses of working differently, advice, incentives & case studies)
- Manchester City Council: Coronavirus Businesses and Employers (advice, business support & grants, enforcement action)
- USDAW Coronavirus Updates (specific sector guidance, rights in the workplace)