Planning the return to the workplace

Women stretching at desk1. Inspect the premises

If the property has been left completely unattended, you may find unexpected pests, damage or breakages — all of which need to be addressed before employees begin to return.

Tests to run before the premises is reoccupied might include:

2. Undertake the necessary risk assessments

These will help you identify the additional control measures and adjustments that will need to be implemented. Look at our page for further information.

Risk assessments should be carried out in consultation with employees or trade unions and should be continually reviewed and adjusted. If you require a Covid-19 risk assessment please contact us.

3. Decide who will return

Will the return to work be staggered? The priority will be those employees who can’t do their job fully from home. Are there others who could continue working from home for the foreseeable future? Don’t forget to continue to support homeworkers.

4. Redesign the workplace for social distancing

Review workplaces before employees return to the company. The following may need to be considered….

  • Can you adjust work patterns and arrival/departure times to reduce the number of employees in the premises at the same time?
  • How can you reduce bottlenecks at access points and lifts?
  • Do you need screens or barriers for employees?
  • Would investing in equipment for card payments prevent contact through handing over cash?
  • What actions should be taken to mitigate the risks of shared equipment or hot-desking?
  • How will you maintain distancing and hygiene with regards to bathroom use?
  • Can you improve ventilation?
  • Could you implement one-way corridors?
  • To what degree do employees need to change how they use break times, and access kitchens, canteens and refreshments on-site?
  • What will be the procedure for visitors and contractors?
  • Would signs or other visual aids assist in changing behaviour?
  • How will the organisation evacuate for a fire or other emergency?

5. Establish your cleaning and hygiene needs

If your company are going to deep clean before the premises opens, this should be stated in the risk assessment. regular cleaning should also be documented including who is responsible for certain tasks. Identify your cleaning needs (eg more frequent cleaning, regular disinfecting of surfaces, handles, keyboards, bannisters, lift buttons, photocopiers, etc) and confirm whether your existing cleaning contractor can fulfil them.

Until a vaccine is available, the organisation will need to maintain a high level of hygiene. Government guidance says employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.

6. Consider issues around work equipment

Plant and machinery will need to be inspected for deterioration, etc. If employees have taken IT equipment, office furniture or other assets home with them you will need a plan to get them back to the workplace, sanitised and checked. If the risk assessment identifies the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent COVID-19 infection, ensure you purchase appropriate PPE.

7. Devise a communications strategy

It is worth involving staff in the planning process and you should keep communications channels open with staff, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Once you have a plan, it needs to be communicated carefully to all employees on the understanding that it will likely need to be adjusted as you go. Aim to give employees reasonable notice of a return to the workplace so that they can arrange childcare, investigate commuting options, etc. Your employees must be confident that you are not putting them at risk by asking them to return to work, so let them know the measures you are taking to keep them safe.

For further information, please contact us.


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