As the world continues in its struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are now faced with the next challenge: how to return to work safely.
Businesses need to prepare and plan for their return to work. Blackswan events such as COVID-19 aren’t often covered in business’s risk management and business continuity plans, which means that there are often dangerous information gaps in many return to work plans.
SAI Global Assurance created an assessment to calculate the level of risk in organisations’ return to work plans. Discover how businesses are preparing for their return to work.
Who Is Planning The Return To Work?
The assessment found that 60% of high to medium risk organisations don’t have a committee planning their return to work. The planning is either left to a single person, or not being planned at all.
Both of these options expose an organisation’s employees to a higher than necessary level of risk and could have dangerous and lingering consequences. In planning the return to work, many workplaces are combating the problem by taking a staggered approach in re-introducing people to the office.
The Physical Workplace
When transitioning back to the office or workplace, the current health regulations regarding the physical environment must be strictly adhered to. If physical regulations are neglected, businesses run a higher risk of contagion, and even a risk of a localised outbreak.
It is crucial to plan ahead for the safety of all employees. Is there an inspection checklist in place to manage workplace conditions? Is there a cleaning regime in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19? Has your organisation considered social distancing measures and establishing safe distance zones within the workplace? A business needs to consider all of these questions and more before a single employee sets foot back in the workplace.
SAI Global has found that only 70% of businesses have an inspection checklist to manage workplace conditions. Without a checklist, things can be left to chance, or are prone to human error. Reassuringly, however, over 95% of businesses are considering social distancing in the workplace to minimize risks.
Communication In The Workplace
Clear and smart communication is crucial for return to work plans. With such a wide-spread problem facing the world and a plethora in misinformation (and occasionally disinformation) regarding what is best practice, employees will need crystal clear communication in what is expected of them to re-enter the workplace. Is there a communications plan set out for informing employees of changes in the workplace?
Some points to cover when communicating to employees include:
- The company-wide strategy for returning to work. Will it be a staggered approach? Who will still be working from home and for how long? Make sure to include any relevant information on how a split workforce can still continue to work together as smoothly as possible.
- Resources available for staff to manage personal hygiene in the workplace. Will the business be providing hand sanitiser for all employees? Will there be sanitising spray made available to clean desks and keyboards? If the organisation has a communal kitchen, will disposable cups and utensils be available to avoid sharing items that can easily transfer COVID-19? All of these questions must be answered and addressed in the businesses communications before returning to work to ensure all employees are on the same page.
- Risk levels and contingency plans should a second outbreak of COVID-19 hit. Are there company-wide policies, procedures and protocols to manage ongoing workplace exposure? has the organisation considered entry and exit points from the workplace? How will the business respond if someone in the workplace tests positive? What contingency plans will be implemented in anticipation of secondary COVID-19 outbreak or changing government regulations?
- Organisations’ health strategies are no longer limited just to physical health, and it’s expected that organisations are equally supportive of their employees’ mental health as well. Mental health professionals around the globe have seen stress and anxiety levels skyrocket in response to the threat of COVID-19, the level of uncertainty the pandemic brings, and living through extended periods of isolation and lockdown. In communicating the importance of employees’ mental well-being, address any company strategies and initiatives that relate.
A Safer Return to Work
Re-entering the workplace in a safe way requires a significant amount of strategy, planning and communication. How a business’ return to work is executed will help determine how smoothly and quickly it is able to return to “business as usual” and reduce future COVID-19 impacts.