From 19th July all restrictions in England have been lifted. Businesses can now reopen, return to the office, and return to pre-pandemic operations. This means there will be more people returning to the office over the coming weeks, whether the workforce is ready to or not!
Understandably, the conversation around returning to the office is divisive. Some employers are taking a pragmatic approach, allowing for phased reintroductions and flexible working. Others have relinquished their office spaces completely while some can’t wait to get everyone back in the same space together.
The Government’s advice
The Government has recommended a gradual return to work. If employees can work from home comfortably, they should continue to do so over the summer.
Employers still have a legal duty to manage risks to those associated with the business. As the pandemic has not yet ended, employers should still be completing risk assessments to minimise the risk of infection and protect employee’s health. These should be based on the latest government advice and public health guidance.
Employers can use specific coronavirus risk assessments to assess whether measures like social distancing and mask-wearing is feasible in the workplace. However, staff are urged to remain cautious and take into consideration other people around them.
It’s also important to note that various sectors of the economy will have different rules and regulations for risk-reducing measures within the workplace.
Is it time to return to the office?
As covid measures have been in place for 18-months, an abrupt change could lead to anxiety amongst employees. Especially if communication is poor and concerns are not listened to.
What should be communicated to employees as soon as possible:
- When the workplace will reopen
- When staff can return to work
- If anyone will continue working from home
- What safety measures will be put in places
- Any changes to the workplace e.g. communal lunch room limit of people
- How staff can travel to work
Ultimately, employees should be ready to return to work but employers should be flexible and account for changes some will have to make – like childcare for example.
Things to consider when re-opening the office
As an employer, there is a lot to prepare before you begin to open up the workspace again.
These are the only restrictions that still remain in place after the 19th July 2021:
- The need to self-isolate if someone tests positive for coronavirus
- The need to self-isolate for those in close contact with someone who tests positive until 16 August. After that date under-18s and those who have received a second COVID vaccination at least 10 days before the contact no longer need to isolate
- Border restrictions remain in place, depending on the status of the departure country
- While voluntary, people will be expected to still cover their faces in crowded indoor areas such as public transport and shops. Some companies have also indicated that they will still require face coverings
To have an in-depth approach to returning to the office, consider the following:
- Will you be instructing and adhering to wearing face coverings in communal areas?
- Keeping communal areas clean like bathrooms, hallways, and kitchens
- Vaccinations and if you will be supporting your employees in time to go get them
- Testing via lateral flow regularly to be proactive against infections
- Vulnerable staff and if it is fair to expect them to return to the office
- Track and trace to help alert staff of any instances of infections
- Meetings, interviews, or gatherings and if they are necessary or can be conducted safely
- Working hours: can they be staggered or work on shift patterns
- Regular cleaning and disinfection of all spaces, especially communal areas
- Ventilation and clean air
Find out more on how Beeston Shenton is following guidance to keep staff and clients safe.
If you’d like any advice on the return to office procedures and to ensure the health and safety of your team, please contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org