Through April, we’ve all been excited to see a number of sectors reopen after significant periods of closure.
While this is great news for those who had previously been forced to shut, it brings a number of concerns when managing new rules and practices – particularly in an environment which is far from settled.
Keeping Healthy and Safe When Times Are Unsettled
If you’ve recently reopened your business, there will have been lots of work to do to ensure you meet new Covid guidelines – we covered most of these in our July blog Is Your Business Ready to Reopen to the Public, so we’re not going to go into them all again here.
But now you are open, how will you ensure you manage your places and people through this time of change?
Looking After Your Places
Your Regular Compliance Commitments
Actually, one of the biggest risks of reopening premises after a period of closure, is ensuring your regular compliance obligations have been met.
Completion of Risk Assessments and Training requirements may well have been missed while premises were closed or staff unavailable for work. A thorough review of all standard procedures and documentation is essential to ensure you don’t put your business – or people – at risk; including, of course, the Covid risk assessment.
You will likely need to perform equipment checks too, First Aid equipment and fire equipment as well as electrical testing and water hygiene testing. If you need support in completing or managing any of these jobs, we at Crystal Clear Compliance will be happy to help.
One thing we mentioned in our previous blog, but which does need to be stated again, is the need to ensure cleanliness of surfaces – for the benefit of both staff and customers.
You may need to have more people responsible for these tasks or new processes to ensure more frequent cleaning; however you choose to achieve this, it’s important to monitor how effective this work is and review these processes if necessary.
It’s important neither your staff or customers feel you are failing to achieving the levels of cleanliness which give them confidence.
Providing space for your staff and customers to keep an appropriate distance is essential and there are guidelines provided by the Health and Safety Executive here.
Markings and signage will encourage people to maintain this distance, barriers can be used to separate individuals where a 2-metre distance can’t be maintained, in some spaces demarcation of the flow of people will be appropriate to reduce opportunities for congestion and shifts might be necessary in some spaces and roles to prevent overpopulation.
Again, it is likely these measures will have been determined before businesses reopened their doors, however it is essential they are regularly reviewed to ensure they are providing the benefits – and protection – the business expects.
Adequate airflow is important in managing the risks of Covid and, in fact, there has always been a legal requirement to provide an adequate supply of fresh air in enclosed workplaces (HSE guidelines are here).
Whatever systems or processes are put in place, these will – as with our previous points – need to be monitored and maintained to ensure they are working well.
Looking After Your People
Many people are concerned about change.
Having been off work for a while, they may be concerned about re-entering their workplace, they may worry that their processes and workplaces will be changed, they may be concerned that they – or someone within their family or support bubble – have vulnerabilities.
The most effective way to reassure your people will be to communicate effectively with them. Whether this is regular written communications to keep them updated or calls to talk through specific, individual concerns, sharing information is key.
Most importantly, remember that communication is two-way. This is not just an opportunity to inform your staff, but also your chance to listen to any concerns or ideas.
In certain roles a level of protection will be necessary and determining what that is will be important. There is some advice from the government on face coverings here.
There are also opportunities for wider protection now, making use of asymptomatic testing so that any Covid-19 cases are identified early (1 in 3 people with Covid don’t have symptoms so testing allows greater opportunities to reduce spread). There is no legal requirement to test within workplaces, if you are considering it, we’d be happy to talk through the implications so get in touch.
You might be considering the benefits of using the NHS Test and Trace service within your workplace, you can find more information on the NHS website here. Alternatively, if you are looking to find out more about vaccination programmes, ACAS provides advice here. Again, we would be happy to discuss any of these concerns with you so do get in touch.
Options and Opportunities
Is returning to a shared workplace the answer? For some individuals, the idea of returning to a crowded office or workplace will be causing a great deal of concern. Ensuring the space is safe for your employee and communicating with them are the first steps, but what if they are still worried?
It may be appropriate to provide your staff options, but that will obviously depend on the individual and their role. In terms of providing appropriate support for your people, managing their health and levels of stress at work have always been an employers responsibility and your commitment to look after your staff is essential now – as it always has been.
Looking After Your Customers
Making Them Welcome
Whether customers, clients or visitors, providing a safe space for anyone entering your business is obviously essential. As with previous sections, the steps required before opening the doors will have already been taken – what is needed now is to review and adapt to ensure the customers are not only safe but happy.
Again, communication is key. Reassure your customers that you are ready to welcome them and – also – you are happy to hear their concerns. This will ensure your systems and processes are doing their job.
Looking After Your Future
While things have changed a lot over the last 18 months, we all know that the change isn’t over yet. There are already further milestones on the roadmap, and we don’t know if others interim steps may be required before we reach some stability.
Looking forward, businesses need to develop processes which are flexible enough to move with these changes and take account of new situations while allowing for growth in your business and the opportunity to update systems and processes through ongoing learning.
If you are wondering how to ensure you look after your business through this change, please do get in touch with us by emailing Lucy at email@example.com