What Returning to Work Looks Like


If nothing else, lockdown has provided an opportunity to evaluate your business – maybe even transform it as a result of Covid-19.

If you’ve been planning a return to work, I imagine you’ll be feeling confident that your house is well and truly in order.

Post-lockdown is likely to be a new normal for your business – but what does that potentially look like?

In this article, Louise Percy, Director of Positive About Business, looks at what a confident and efficient return to work looks like, and outlines ways to ensure workplace safety.

Safety first

First and foremost, the motto for getting back to business will be ‘safety first’ – the safety of your staff, your customers, the visitors to your workplace, and the safety of those responsible for your building maintenance. As with all workplace health and safety, this is not simply an obligation to be carried on the shoulders of management; everyone in and connected to your business has a crucial role to play.

In my previous article, I talked about Planning for a New Normal by getting your policies and procedures up-to-date. With that task now complete, you can start to identify which staff you will be bringing back into the workplace (and confirming they are healthy to return to work). For a lot of businesses, it will be necessary to allow some staff to continue to work remotely – particularly if the workplace environment risks non-compliance with social distancing rules.

“Be flexible and mindful when bringing employees back to work. Some have continued to work through this crisis; be sensitive to them as you bring more employees back to work. And encourage consideration too for those returning to work for the first time in weeks – they may be anxious about their health, have childcare issues, or have lost loved ones to coronavirus.”

What Returning To Work Looks Like

A legal requirement for every employer and self-employed person, and will identify what the hazards may be, who may be harmed, and the measures to be put in place to mitigate any hazards. For example, you may identify employees with underlying health conditions that need to minimise contact with other staff and clients.

To mitigate that risk, you may, for example, redeploy them to another area of the business, or allow them to work from home.

A safe return to the workplace may not look like the old 9-to-5 routine. To maintain social distancing, you may have to:

  • Consider a phased return of employees
  • Adjust the total number of employees on site at any one time
  • Extend your working hours to establish a shift pattern
  • Impose alternate workdays if shift working is not possible
  • Rotate start & finish times, and breaks
  • Reroute foot traffic in the building – if possible, adopt a one-way system
  • Prohibit car sharing
  • Relocate desks or install plexiglass, or both

Check that your office and common rooms (reception area, staff room, kitchen, meeting rooms, etc.) are compliant and good to go. With the above workspace changes formalised, you should be addressing the following:

Hand sanitiser
Make hand sanitiser and wipes available to staff, customers, visitors, etc. You should also discourage staff from bringing cleaning products from home as this can present other risks.

Visual cues
Look at sourcing (or create your own using Canva) graphics and signage – these are a great way of reminding staff and customers:

  • to wash their hands regularly, and for at least 20 seconds
  • to make use of hand sanitiser
  • to adopt good cough/sneeze hygiene
  • to maintain a distance of at least two metres at all times
  • to self-monitor their health, act responsibly, and go home to protect their co-workers
  • that meeting room occupancy is strictly limited

For some businesses, it will be mandatory – ensure you have stock. If PPE is not mandatory, consider having some available as it may help ease anxiety in employees that are returning to work for the first time in months. Stay up-to-date with the latest government and health advice on PPE.

Fleet vehicles
Equip your fleet vehicles with hand sanitiser and any PPE, if mandatory or in line with current government advice. It is good practice to clean and disinfect vehicles at the beginning and end of each shift.

Frequently clean surfaces, particularly on high touch areas such as door handles, taps, vending machines, coffee makers, and so on. If you hire a cleaning company, they should be using the current equipment, disinfectant, and wearing PPE.

Reduce spreading, and decrease exposure to, the virus by:

  • Limiting where invited customers and visitors can go within your workspace
  • Removing product samples, magazines, etc. from reception or other common rooms

And most importantly, tell your customers about the steps you are taking to make your business safe for them.

The past few months have been extremely stressful. But recognise your success. Celebrate that your business is operational.

Positive About Business specialise in helping business owners achieve business excellence and improvement.

If you would like more time to do, and grow, your business, contact Louise on 0141 266 0075 or email admin@positiveaboutbusiness.co.uk

Positive About Business is based in Scotland and while every care has been taken to provide accurate information on this page, it represents our understanding of the current, and still evolving, Covid-19 situation. You must not rely on the information in this document as an alternative to legal, government, or healthcare advice from an appropriately qualified professional.