The government has now advised all businesses that they should bring employees back to the office from 1 August if it is safe to do so.  Updated guidance is expected at the same time advising on how to do this. In the meantime, we have prepared some of the questions we are being asked to help you to decide and plan what’s right for your business.

What happens if staff don’t want to return to the office?

Some employees may still have concerns or feel anxious about returning to the office environment. Currently the advice for employers is that it is within their discretion as to whether staff return, so we would advise you talk to staff individually and understand their circumstances. Our HR Consultants can provide support and advice to help work our the best scenario.

You will also need to consider fears that staff may have around using public transport. Staggered start times may be an option, or you could discuss alternative modes of transport to reach the workplace.

How can I make the workplace secure?

See the current government guidance, which includes the following steps:

Conduct a risk assessment

Before returning to office based  work you should ensure the safety of the workplace by:

  • carrying out a risk assessment in line with the HSE guidance
  • consulting with your workers or trade unions
  • sharing the results of the risk assessment with your workforce and on your website

Our HR Consultants can offer advice in completing these assessments.

Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures

You should increase the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning by:

  • encouraging people to follow the guidance on hand washing and hygiene
  • providing hand sanitiser around the workplace, in addition to washrooms
  • frequently cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are touched regularly
  • enhancing cleaning for busy areas
  • setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets
  • providing hand drying facilities – either paper towels or electrical dryers

Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible by:

  • putting up signs to remind workers and visitors of social distancing guidance
  • avoiding sharing workstations
  • using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a 2m distance
  • arranging one-way traffic through the workplace if possible
  • switching to seeing visitors by appointment only if possible

Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk by 

  • considering whether an activity needs to continue for the business to operate
  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • using back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible
  • staggering arrival and departure times
  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’

What about staff who are still shielding or who have childcare issues?

In this instance you should discuss working arrangements with staff to agree an appropriate return to work date which takes into consideration childcare arrangements. If staff are shielding our HR Consultants can discuss options with you on how to manage their return to the workplace

If I am changing the shift patterns or working routines, do I need to let staff know in writing? If new working hours are being proposed this will need to be agreed by the affected employees through a process of consultation. Any changes will need to be confirmed in writing. We offer advice on managing the consultation process and relevant paperwork.

How do I manage a team if some are working remotely and others are in the office? By ensuring that all staff are included in both verbal and written communication. Meetings can be conducted in a meeting room with a dial in for remote workers. Ask for regular feedback from employees to ensure the company can adjust to the needs expressed by both office based and remote workers.

Get in touch for any advice or help with any of these issues.