The health and safety of the workforce should be management’s top priority as it considers how to bring operations back to some semblance of normal. This is, of course, a moral, ethical and legal concern for all companies. And from a business perspective, safeguarding employees’ well-being is paramount because no plan to resume normal operations can succeed without them.
A return to work after Covid 19 from a management perspective is a huge task, as employees will be relying on them to succeed, in a safe and reassuring way. Employers have a duty to take steps that are reasonably necessary to safeguard the health and safety of their workers.
Normal working patterns could be fundamentally altered by the lockdown, as some employees express a preference to continue working from home, or are simply too scared to return to the office when COVID-19 is still a lurking danger. Employers need to consider carefully how they will protect their workforce from the risk of contracting the virus in an office environment, whilst others, suffering from a severe drop in business volumes, may find they need either fewer employees, or employees working on fundamentally changed terms.
Putting safety first is of course the ultimate aim, but management and board level staff also face the task of making sure the business is productive and running efficiently. COVID-19 has challenged businesses to do three things at once: stage the return to work, understand and leverage the advancements they enacted during the crisis, and chart a new path forward. Focusing on the return to work alone is not a viable option, health and safety, and its ongoing success is paramount to the company continuing.
Employees will need time to adapt and embrace the changes of working post lockdown. There may be many changes to get used to, with a huge mindset shift. Experiences for each individual will differ, some may remain confident and unaffected, others may sadly have lost loved ones-each staff member will have their own views and concerns, and management will need to adapt and make sure employees understand what’s being asked of them and what steps the company is taking to protect their health.
Management should consult with their employees and their representative bodies as they carry out a risk assessment, so that staff can anticipate potential challenges. It’s equally important to share the results of these risk assessment, so employees can see the steps that have been taken to protect them. It may also help them to understand their own responsibilities in helping to keep themselves and their colleagues safe.
The business recovery is a key stage. Management should monitor the effectiveness of the return to work programme in all aspects of health and safety to ensure that it remains effective and is supporting those who have returned to work. It can also be used to restore confidence in the business.
If you require further assistance in any challenges presented in returning to work after Covid-19, please contact us here where our specialised health and safety consultants will be happy to advise and assist you.