With the end of the government’s plan B restrictions in England, you may think the pandemic is over, but this is not the case. While the government has removed the requirement for wearing face-masks, stopped the need for COVID passes and no longer asks people to work from home, there are still mixed views from society on these issues, especially due to the large number of Omicron cases across the country. For employers, many issues remain such as high staff absences due to self-isolation, requirements to review and update COVID-Secure measures and risk assessments, as well as planning a safe return to the workplace or even putting in place longer-term homeworking. Whatever your company’s position, now feels like a good time to take control and focus on a plan to build back stronger than before. So what can employers do to move forward for the better?
Consult with employees
Some employees may have been working from home for almost two years. It is likely that employees have mixed feelings about returning to the workplace. Therefore it is essential that you start conversations with all employees to find out how they are feeling. It will help you identify which members of staff may be concerned about a return and for what reasons (such as anxiety or health worries) so you can discuss how you will support them. Many organisations are considering a phased return, and some will be taking a hybrid approach where staff will split their time between home and the office. There may be some employees who are desperate to return to the workplace and the challenge is planning a safe return while also incorporating longer-term homeworking while ensuring the whole company feels like one team.
The Resolution Foundation reported in November 2021 that around 600,000 adults have left the workforce since the pandemic began or are working fewer hours, due to a fear of the virus and long COVID. This demonstrates how important it is to help your employees feel comfortable discussing their concerns - so as an employer you can explain your safety measures and return to work policies & procedures to ensure you retain your valued staff.
The last ONS Lifestyle survey found that 61% of all adults were very or somewhat worried about the effect that the coronavirus pandemic is having on their lives. 12% of adults don’t ever expect life to return to normal, with 35% expecting a return to normal in over a year. Employers have the opportunity to offer their employees stability and support, and in return, they will gain more engaged and productive employees.
Review your Health & Safety policies
Despite the relaxation of government guidance, employers are responsible for ensuring the health, safety, and wellbeing of their employees when it comes to COVID-19. There is a legal obligation to carry out a COVID risk assessment and put in place appropriate measures to minimise the risk of transmission of the virus. While many organisations have already completed this it should be reviewed regularly. This risk assessment should also be shared with all employees and any feedback given should be appropriately considered. Employees who feel their organisation isn’t taking enough precautions to limit the spread of the virus can raise concerns with the HSE. It is much better for employers to have open communication with their employees to help everyone feel safe and a refresh of information is the best way to make sure everyone is up-to-date and feels comfortable returning to a shared workspace.
On top of this, your organisation’s other Health & Safety responsibilities need to be reviewed if you have employees returning to the workplace, for example, fire risk assessments and DSE assessments. Other Health and Safety training such as COSHH or manual handling may need to be refreshed. Providing training for your employees in these areas will show them that they have an employer who is on top of employee health and safety and values their workforce.
Be mindful of supporting your employees with their mental health & wellbeing
The pandemic has been difficult for everyone in society, and many may still fear catching the virus, particularly those who are vulnerable or would have previously been shielding. Despite all facing the same pandemic everyone’s experiences have been different. For some, the after-effects of the last two years are only just emerging and employee burnout is also a very real issue. There’s lots employers can do to support the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. Just starting the conversation can be very powerful, but providing Mental Health Awareness training, appointing Mental Health First Aiders, or signing up to an Employee Assistance Programme are simple and effective ways to support your employees. Find further information and ideas to support employee mental health here.
Returning to work training & support
Returning to the workplace or moving to another work routine where employees combine homeworking and working from the office is yet another period of change. It can be unsettling and it is important that this next phase is handled carefully so your business can continue to run as safely and smoothly as possible. One way to help your staff transition is to provide online training, which can be completed from any location and at a convenient time to them. Not only will it help the whole organisation feel aligned through carrying out training wherever they are based, but it will help ensure compliance as well as give your staff the confidence to succeed in their roles.
Here are some of our top training courses that can help you build back stronger and set you up for the next few weeks and months ahead and longer…
Health & Safety training: If your employees are returning to the office you must ensure you refresh their health and safety training on a number of key areas including, DSE training, Fire Awareness, Manual Handling, COSHH, and Infection Prevention & Control. Mandatory health and safety is crucial to the foundation of your business.
Returning to work training: For those employees who are feeling anxious about returning to the workplace after a long time away our Returning to Work training is the perfect course to help them transition smoothly and confidently.
Mental health & Wellbeing training: Mental Health Awareness training, Building Resilience, Managing Anxiety, Stress Awareness & Management are all highly appropriate courses to help support your employees mentally and equip them with the tools to support their own wellbeing. It will also help you as an employer be seen as more approachable and understanding, which will help to build stronger employer and employee relationships.
Soft skills: Providing a range of bite-sized soft skills training courses will help your employees develop vital skills to help them navigate the next few weeks and months ahead, and be prepared for any future challenges. Building skills of resilience, confidence, and communication, as well as learning how to be a critical thinker and use mindfulness will provide more well-rounded employees that
Set your business up for success
The last couple of years have brought about many challenges, but it's now time to build back stronger than before. Employers who take time to consider their approaches and put their employees first will be in a much better position for success.
You may be interested in reading further information on the hot topics and themes for businesses this year. If so download your copy of The Workplace Journal, a report which brings together the all-important issues to help a business thrive in the coming year.