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The employer’s roadmap out of lockdown

After a number of months, this week sees the next step on the government’s ‘Roadmap’ out of lockdown. Our article looks at how this can be achieved successfully by employers when considering their employees.

Government advice remains to work from home wherever possible. For many, the return to business outside of the home is a necessity. This article gives you advice on how, as an employer, you can approach returning to business after lockdown.

As employers, an individualised approach needs to be taken with your employees. Many have experienced very different things over the last year and these experiences need consideration when returning after lockdown. Allowing employees to work from home as much as possible and considering the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of all concerned is critical while monitoring any changes that occur to government guidance. Make sure that the time is right for you and your business and ensure that communication to all employees is clear and supportive so they understand the needs of the business and how they fit into the planned return.

The Changing Role

After so much disruption from the pandemic, employee’s expectations around work, how they view their role, and how they manage work and home responsibilities may have changed significantly. Many people are apprehensive about returning to life outside of the home. It’s an ideal time for employers to think more creatively about best practice ways of working. Perhaps adopting more flexible working practices to meet individuals’ changing needs and expectations could help relieve any concerns – for example adjusting hours to avoid peak travel on public transport. A flexible approach could help employers develop more effective people management practices, resulting in improved productivity. You HR has several templates and guidelines to help you with reviewing existing or produce new policies on flexible working. Changes in roles and working arrangements must be documented and consulted on properly with ample time for consultation with those affected.

Before bringing employees back to the workplace consider whether it is:

  • essential;
  • sufficiently safe;
  • mutually agreed between you and your employee?

Before returning many aspects must be considered, including the size and nature of the workplace, the number of vulnerable employees or those living with vulnerable people, caring responsibilities, public transport dependency, as well as the fluctuations of local and wider outbreaks. How will the workplace kitchen and bathroom facilities operate? How will meetings be held? If the office used to operate as a hot desk office how will this be managed now? What stance have you taken regarding vaccinations and lateral flow testing? Do you need more PPE, additional hygiene measures, better ventilation or protection screening?

Employers must complete a risk assessment to assist in their decision-making process, taking into account the factors referred to above. This must include the practicality of implementing social distancing and how local outbreaks would be dealt with. Many employers with workforces that cannot work from home have found that adapting premises to accommodate everyone returning on a socially distanced basis is very challenging. It may be better to remain completely closed with employees on furlough while the scheme continues to operate to give more time to make any adaptations needed. During this time it is also important to review your business continuity plan to reflect any changes needed.

Mental Health

Health risks from the pandemic are psychological as well as physical. Many are experiencing anxiety about the ongoing health crisis, fear of infection and are coping with social isolation due to the lockdown. People have experienced challenging domestic situations, like childcare or caring for vulnerable relatives. They may have also experienced financial worries if their household has had a reduction in income. Some will have experienced illness or bereavement. Employees may have concerns about travelling and socially distancing on public transport – or it may not be as regularly available. The changes that society has seen can be difficult to process. Familiar workplace routines could feel very different causing some to feel significant distress. Here are some of the things employers can consider when supporting staff:

  • Ensure employees are aware of any Employee Assistance Programmes the organisation may have.
  • If the organisation has access to a Mental Health First Aider ensure employees know how to contact them.
  • This website https://hubofhope.co.uk/ is a database that details many of the mental health services available in areas across the UK
  • Mind is a mental health charity that provides advice and support and their website is https://www.mind.org.uk/ or for immediate help, the Samaritans are available 24/7 and their contact number is 116 123
  • Thrive is a free NHS app and uses games to track moods and teaches methods to take control of stress and anxiety. NB. The app is currently under reassessment so there may be difficulties using it at the moment. You could also try the Headspace and Calm apps.

You HR are here for you

At You HR our strapline is “It’s all about the people”. Getting these next steps out of lockdown right is crucial for the success of your business.

Take a look at our earlier articles Instil Working Practices to ‘stop getting by with what you have’, Return to work – a successful transition and The free business leaders guide to coming out of lockdown.

If you need help with refreshing policies and contracts, recruiting new employees or are considering redundancy/restructure measures then please get in touch with us to arrange an appointment by emailing alice@youhr.co.uk.


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