What firms need to get back to work safely

What firms need to get back to work safely

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With the lockdown gradually being eased over the coming weeks and months, every business now needs to be thinking about how to ensure any return to work is successful. 

This means considering not only how issues such as productivity may be affected by new requirements such as social distancing, but also how to reassure workers that they will be able to return safely.

For now, government guidelines still state that if people are able to work from home they should do so, which means many firms will have different timetables for their staff, depending on where and how they usually work. For instance, while field and warehouse workers will need to come in, office-based support staff should expect to remain away from the workplace for a while yet.

Showing employers are taking responsibility

However, sooner or later, offices will open up as well, and it's natural for employees to have worries about whether their environment is safe.

To address these concerns and ensure employees are confident they will be able to work in safety, it will be vital for employers to demonstrate they are acting responsibly and taking all reasonable steps to make their workplaces safe. If businesses can't achieve trust among their workforce that they are taking their welfare seriously, any efforts to return to normality will be over before they've begun.

This will be true whether they are running a busy office such as a contact centre, a warehouse or factory floor, or are sending employees out into the field where they may have to perform tasks in much less controlled environments.

When it comes to reopening offices, ensuring social distancing will be a primary concern, which means it's inevitable there will be some restrictions on how many people can come in at once.

In this regard, employers may be helped by changing attitudes among their workforce. One recent survey conducted by YouGov found only one in four workers are keen to return to the office full time once the pandemic has passed, which means it may be easier to keep numbers down. However, this will mean firms have to invest in the right tools and connectivity to enable continued home working on a more permanent basis.

The tools needed to help workers feel safe and confident

But for those who do come in, firms will need to put the right protections in place. When it comes to equipping employees with items like PPE, government guidance recommends items such as face coverings remain reserved for people who need them most, such as those working in environments where dust is a problem, in order to ensure supplies can get where they will be most useful.

For indoor workplaces like offices and contact centres, the government states: "COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE."

However, there are other tools businesses can turn to to reduce their risk. For instance, one step that many workplaces should consider is technology that can check whether people may be showing symptoms before they enter a workplace, such as temperature scanners.

We've already seen these deployed at locations such as airports around the world - and it was recently confirmed these devices would also be added in the UK as well. But there are a wide range of other locations that could benefit from similar technologies - and they may be more accessible and affordable than many businesses think.

For instance, standalone thermal scanners are compact and can easily be located at reception or other entrances to a workplace. These do not require physical contact to work - preventing any worries about transmission of the virus through surfaces - and can scan a person's wrist to give a temperature reading in real-time.

Readings can be displayed immediately on the LCD screen, showing whether they are in the normal range and, if not, how far outside the specified temperature range an individual is. If there is an abnormal reading, an alarm can also sound to alert the worker and the business, so they can take whatever steps are necessary to minimise the risk. 

Meanwhile, some models are also equipped with features such as IP cameras and facial recognition to better identify employees who may need to be asked to continue working from home.

Having these reassurances in place will be vital in ensuring people are willing to come into work and can be productive, and can help ease the transition back into the new normal - whatever form that might take.

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