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How to talk to your staff about preventing COVID-19 upon returning to work

How to talk to your staff about preventing COVID-19 upon returning to work

We all have a duty to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As part of their duty to prevent the spread of the virus, employers should talk to their employees about reducing COVID risks in the workplace.

As an employer, you should consult with your workers to explain changes you’re making to keep the workplace safe, ask workers if they’re worried about any risks, and seek to get their input on Health & Safety practices surrounding COVID-19. You can do this by talking to them directly, through a trade union, or through another representative.

Regardless of how you reach out to employees, it is essential that you make time to talk to all employees about your plans to keep them safe.

Vulnerable workers

Those who are considered vulnerable are more likely to be anxious at the idea of returning to work, so it is essential that employers reach out to them and explain how they will be supported.

Supporting vulnerable workers might include options like allowing them to continue to work from home, or only giving them tasks that allow for social distancing to be practiced.

It’s important that you also ask these workers questions about how you can better support them. They might suggest something that their manager or organisation could do.

Homeworkers

Many employers have allowed a number of their employees to work from home during the pandemic.

If these workers have been away from the workplace for a while, and in particular if things have changed, it would be beneficial to talk to discuss COVID precautions with them before they return to work.

If it becomes clear that those who are working from home are concerned about returning to work, you should listen to their concerns, assure them that the organisation is committed to their safety, and discuss any possible new ways of working.

Social distancing

As an employer, talking to your employees can help you properly plan social distancing in the workplace to help with infection prevention.

Understandably, constantly keeping 2 meters apart in the workplace is not possible for many workplaces, so you need to come up with new methods and ways of work that allow for social distancing to be practiced or for the risk of transmission to be managed and kept to a minimum This can usually be achieved by using the correct PPE for the role, regular disinfecting/cleaning and maintaining good personal hygiene and handwashing practices.

Upon returning to work, all employees should know what to look out for when it comes to COVID precautions, and signage should also be used for reassurance.

It can be beneficial for managers to speak to their employees about their concerns for social distancing, as different departments are likely to come across different issues. Any concerns raised should be forwarded to the employer so they can make reasonable adjustments to their social distancing plan/policy.

Organising your workplace

Re-evaluating how you can organise your workplace to stop the spread of infection is an effective way to reduce the risk of COVID.

Here are a few changes you could consider:

  • Moving workstations apart
  • Give each employee their own workstation and equipment
  • Moving seating apart in rest areas
  • Creating one way systems 
  • Clear signage

Employers must ensure that these changes don’t affect any health and safety precautions already in place.

Some employees may have good ideas on how to re-organise the workplace. You can ask them questions like:

  • How can we reorganise our workplace to reduce risks from coronavirus?
  • Is there anything we can add or change in our workplace to reduce risks from coronavirus?
  • What else can we do to make our workplace safe?

Cleaning & sanitising

It is absolutely crucial that employers look to improve their cleaning routines upon returning to work. Speaking to employees about areas they frequently touch, how to reduce the need for cleaning, who does the cleaning, and how to improve your workplace’s cleaning can help reduce the risk of infection.

Ask your employees to think about shared work areas and equipment, and then try and find a solution to stop the need for sharing them. Reducing people’s contact with surfaces and objects is better than relying on cleaning once contact has taken place.

Ventilation and air conditioning

Employers must legally ensure an adequate supply of fresh air in the workplace in normal times, but the importance of this is even greater due to the pandemic.

Good ventilation reduces the concentration of the virus in the air and therefore reduces the risks from airborne transmission.

Although this is an area where most employees can’t give a lot of input, it is good practice to ask them whether there are areas they feel aren’t ventilated well enough, and if they think you or their manager could do something differently to help with ventilation.

Mental wellbeing

The COVID-19 pandemic has, and is still having a detrimental effect on people’s mental health and wellbeing. This has led to reports of higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

For this reason, the idea of returning to work can be daunting to many employees, so their mental wellbeing must be considered in your organisation’s returning to work plan.

There are a number of ways that employees can be eased back into work safely, including through the use of our Mental Health & Wellbeing Training courses.

However, it is also important that you reach out to all your employees and ask them questions like whether they know who to approach for support, and whether they feel your organisation’s level of support is appropriate.

Returning to Work Training

Here at iHASCO, we offer a number of training courses that can be used to help employees make a smooth and safe return to work.

Our Returning to Work Essentials Training bundle covers a number of essential topics to ensure a safe return to work is achieved. The course includes training courses like:

We also offer a number of free resources surrounding returning to work, coronavirus, and the furlough scheme, including:

  • COVID-secure Risk Assessments & Inspections
  • Vaccinations and Testing Q&A’s
  • Returning to Work White Paper
  • COVID-19 Health & Safety Checklist

See our Coronavirus & Furlough Scheme Resources here.
See our Returning to Work Resources here.

Offering staff access to these online courses is a fantastic way of ensuring they are familiar with a number of their responsibilities, whilst also helping to build their confidence upon returning to work.

You can claim a free, no-obligation trial to any of these courses today!

Returning to Work Essentials Bundle
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