Whilst the Thai government has extended the lockdown until the end of May, it has said it will consider easing some restrictions on businesses as a result of the drop in new COVID-19 cases. If you run a business or are in HR, this is your green light to begin planning for the return to work of your employees.
As an employer, you should plan now for a staged return to the workplace, placing the wellbeing of your staff at the centre of any decision-making. To help you with this, we’ve put together a mini guide of seven key things you need to do:
1. Let people continue working from home, if they want to
If any of your staff can continue working from home after restrictions begin to be lifted, allow them to do so. This is not only for their health, but for the health of their colleagues and for the wider community – less people commuting means less chance of a second outbreak. On the flip side, if an employee feels it is actually better for their mental wellbeing to be in the office, support them with social distancing and cleansing considerations.
2. Communicate with employees about the actions you’re taking
Be confident in shouting about the practical measures you are taking to ensure the safety of your teams. Communicate with your employees regularly to reassure them that their wellbeing is of the utmost importance. For those coming back to the workplace, share information on the procedures they should follow at the office and what they should do if they begin to feel ill.
3. Consider reduced working hours
As well as staggering working hours, consider reducing them initially. This will need to be discussed thoroughly with employees as it will probably mean a drop in pay. Be sure to be clear about why you’re doing it, whether it’s for health and safety reasons, or because there simply isn’t the workload that was there was before COVID-19.
4. Assess your workplace
Before anyone can come back, you’ll need to assess your workplace and working practices to ensure they’re supporting social distancing. Consider: Can employees keep 2m apart? How will you run meetings and job interviews during the outbreak? What extra measures can you take to keep communal areas clean and prevent more than two or three staff using them at a time, depending on the size? Can you stagger work hours to create more space in the working environment?
5. Deep-clean and stock-up
Carry out a deep-clean before you reopen and ensure you have plenty of hand sanitiser, hand wash, anti-bacterial wipes and PPE if necessary, all for staff to use whenever they want. Also, review your cleaning contract if you have one and consider additional services or procedures.
6. Support the mental wellbeing of your staff
Remember that the impact of COVID-19 on your employees will also be psychological. This was an unprecedented occurrence that no-one was ready for, your team members may return to work with anxiety about infection, and not have coped well with the extended period of lockdown isolation. Then there’s the stress of home-schooling kids, missing family members and maybe even bereavements. Be sure to provide easily accessible and anonymous support for staff and let them know how they can access it whenever they need to, whether they’re at work or not.
7. Keep relationships strong
Keep an eye on morale and relationships in the workplace after returning from the Coronavirus outbreak. Consider that not everyone’s working life will have been affected by COVID-19 in the same way. Some may have been furloughed on 100% pay, some may have still had to come to work, and some may even have had their workloads increased. Support your managers to have one-to-ones with staff and keep the line of communication, and frustration, open.
There are actions you can take action before the return to support employee engagement and increase the likelihood of a positive and efficient transition – check out our 7 ways to create engagement with your remote employees.
Now is the time to start thinking about all of these and actioning many of them. COVID-19 will end and lockdowns will soon be relaxed, allowing businesses to start up again – ensure you’re ready when the time comes by creating a safe and supportive working environment that allows your employees to contribute fully and feel fulfilled.