Try and keep office working as flexible as possible

Jamie Mackenzie, director at Sodexo Engage, gave tips on workplace safety for those who have recently returned to work following the easing of some of the lockdown restrictions.

Mackenzie said that if your workplace needs to be re-opened then think about the level of flexible working it is possible to implement. This may involve offering more remote working or different working hours from the usual 9-5 to account for childcare, home-schooling or avoiding busy commutes.

This is what Mackenzie said about the three main points to consider:

Assess the necessity

‘The first, and most important, thing to consider is whether a return to the workplace is absolutely necessary. Even if the majority of your staff are eager to return and get a bit more normality back, it’s important to weigh up the risk before giving the go ahead. If working from home is not possible, or sustainable in the long-term, assess how the business can observe guidelines to keep everyone safe before re-opening the workplace.’

Consider the commute

‘Before you expect staff to return, consider staff commutes and whether it’s safe to allow them to make the journey. Do they have to get public transport to get into work? If they can use a car, is there sufficient parking available? The journey each person makes will not only affect them, but it will also impact all other staff members. For example, if one person has no alternative but to use public transport, everyone else is also at risk even if they can avoid it. Encouraging staff to use alternative modes of transport by offering a sufficient benefits package may help – the Cycle to Work scheme for instance is a great way of doing this, and may alleviate any staff concerns too.’

Mental wellbeing of staff

‘While some employees may welcome the return, for others it could cause more anxiety, including worrying about their health or how they will deal with other obligations without the usual remedies like nursery or calling on grandparents for childcare. For some it might be a mixture of both. Implementing measures to combat these issues is paramount for mental wellbeing if a return to the workplace is essential.’

Other obligations

‘With everything pretty much on hold at the moment, staff may have welcomed the work from home policy since other services, such as childcare, have also stopped unless you’re a key worker. Some staff might also fall into vulnerable categories, or have duties of care to other members of the household, so employers need to take these factors into consideration before making it compulsory to head back to work.’