With the celebrations and euphoria of 'Freedom Day' slowly wearing off meaning the vast majority of Covid-19 restrictions have now been lifted, workforces across the UK are now preparing for the gradual return to the workplace. However, with infection rates and anxiety still on the rise, organisations must be extremely careful with how they roll out plans to return to the physical workplace.
The government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can, but expects and recommends that employers plan for a gradual return to workplaces over the summer.
It's expected that many employers will encounter a number of diverse groups within their workforce, with some enthusiastic about returning to the workplace and others anxious, perhaps even wishing to remain at home.
Read on to find out how you can manage a gradual transition back to your workplace while mitigating any negative impact on employee engagement and morale.
Despite the successful rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, many employees will remain vulnerable to Covid-19 or are living with vulnerable family members. As such, you may find a couple of employees are likely to have genuine concerns about the risk of contracting Covid-19 if they return to the workplace.
Previously it was advised that employers should take action to enable those who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) to work from home. Employers are now being encouraged to talk to CEV workers who are returning to their workplace and reassure them of the steps their organisation is taking to keep them safe.
Employers should also carefully consider the appropriate action required for employees who refuse to return to the workplace because of concerns about contracting Covid-19. This could be offering employees a mixture of remote and fixed working (hybrid working) or giving employees the chance to continue working from home with the option for a weekly meeting in their local coffee shop.
After lengthy periods of social isolation, the withdrawal from society and fear of contracting coronavirus, the thought of returning to a busy workplace may feel overwhelming for many people, particularly those suffering from anxiety or other mental health conditions.
It's vital employers find ways to support such individuals both inside and outside the workplace and consider adjustments where appropriate, which may include continued remote working or varying working hours to avoid busy times.
Offering mental health support services to those in need may also become routine allowing employees to express and alleviate any concerns or worries. What's more, for those who opt to continue working from home, employers should make a conscious effort to ensure all team members are included in any decision-making meetings or otherwise.
With many employees embracing the advantages of working from home, employers may find some individuals will be reluctant to return to the workplace. Employers should consider carefully their reasons for requiring such employees to return to the workplace, and ensure that clear communication is kept at the forefront of decisions between staff and employer.
What's more, employers should give their team members a reasonable date that they're expected back in the workplace to ensure appropriate child care requirements can be found.
Some employees will be delighted by the lifting of guidance to work from home and be keen to return to the office as soon as possible. Employers should, however, remain mindful to still provide a safe place of work and their statutory health and safety obligations.
Before allowing any employees to return to the workplace, an employer should conduct a thorough health and safety risk assessment and follow the government's new guidance on working safely during coronavirus (Covid-19), which sets out a number of precautions to manage the risk of Covid-19 spreading in the workplace.
Having assessed the risk of Covid-19 in their workplace, some employers may consider it necessary to require staff to wear facemasks in communal areas and maintain some social distance.
So will you be returning to the office?