Organisations included in categories being actively encouraged to return to the workplace face a double-edged sword. The consensus appears to be that starting to return will hopefully inspire economic improvement and recommencement of business activity. Although demand for many services will be depleted from previous levels until sector and consumer confidence returns, there is some logic to imply that revenues will start to improve and grow as a result. Organisations able to forecast revenue growth accurately and resource accordingly should see some obvious benefit.
Harsher Consequences for Rule Breakers
On the other hand, living and working with COVID-19 (Cv19) presents real challenges; firstly a raft Government guidelines need to be adhered to on a stringent basis, or according to many news reports today, “Employers may face criminal proceedings for flouting the rules”, and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and other authorities will be checking and auditing corporate compliance on a random basis. This poses potentially significant additional cost and resources for those returning to the workplace as a result of a necessity to consider the following:
- Supply of sanitisation/cleaning products
- Reconfiguration of workspaces to accommodate social distancing
- Reduced population per sq. foot,
- Team & shift pattern administration
- Potential supply, stock management and disposal of PPE for some
- Training and ongoing enforcement of evolving policies and protocols ensuring fully compliant staff, customers, and visitors
- Monitoring, reporting, and alerting of suspected/confirmed cases of infection
- Analysis of and adaptation to constantly evolving guidelines
- Payroll administration of rotating staff in/out of Furlough
- Increased office cleaning costs and routines
- Administration, evidencing and auditing of all of the above activities
Attitude and Opinion Matters
The third dimension and on-going challenge organisations face is the attitude of staff themselves. Across society, and therefore the workforce, there are a myriad of opinions regarding COVID-19 ranging from denial of its existence, through indifference to mild concern, and some with absolute fear.
Underlying these views are deeply personal issues, for example, underlying health issues, shielding vulnerable relatives, home schooling needs, household members working on the front line, bereavement and the ongoing risk of self-isolation or infection.
Individual opinions vary greatly regarding the requirement for or effectiveness of facemasks and PPE. In short, a “one size fits all” approach to managing such a diverse group of opinions and needs will not be viable, and bringing staff back to the workplace without consideration of all of the above will be highly emotive, risking exposing business to corporate responsibility issues, both from a government and a workforce/visitor/customer perspective.
In any event and as restrictions are lifted over time, all employers must consider a complex set of factors to optimise business performance whilst in consideration of wellbeing, productivity, and compliance in an effective and efficient manner. Use of an established Health and Safety platform that captures and automates the administration of Cv19 protocols, capable if necessary, of audit by the HSE will be imperative in protecting organisations and their employees.
For more information and to view a free guide to “A Safe Return to the Workplace”, visit Safetybank.