With the UK still in “Phase 1” of lockdown the Government’s plan for “Phase 2” looks to focus on getting the economy moving again while limiting the risk of a second wave of infections. While the current lockdown restrictions are set to be in place until at least the 7th of May, the Prime Minister is not expected to make any statement announcing his roadmap until Sunday the 10th of May. During this speech we’re expecting Boris Johnson to announce how restrictions will be eased in order to kickstart the economy and get businesses open again. In this blog, we’ll look at some of the ways you can get your business ready for when lockdown restrictions are eased and what measures you should be taking to help prepare your business for a safe return to work.
Preparing for a safe return to work
Consider how your business operates and what measures can be taken to allow for greater social distancing in your workplace as well as putting in place additional hygiene measures. Some examples may include dividing staff into groups or shifts to reduce the number of employees working at any one time, limiting the number of customers or visitors allowed in your premises, use of appropriate PPE, improved ventilation and additional cleaning regimes.
If your business can reopen when the restrictions start to ease, then you should be communicating this to your workforce. Communications should include what measures have been taken to prepare the workplace, what changes are going to be put in place to protect employees and what procedures are in place. Providing plenty of notice will help to ensure that your staff have time to prepare for these changes mentally as well as physically.
Communicate with your customers
Once you have communicated this to your employees you can start planning your customer communications and what measures you will be putting in place to ensure customer safety. These communications will form an important part of helping to reassure your customers as well as letting them know that your business is fully open for business. These messages can be posted on social media, added to an FAQs page on your website, included in email campaigns and added to in-store posters. Some of the content you may want to include in your communications are things like:
How do you plan on keeping your customers safe while they are accessing your products or services?
This should include details such as any personal protective equipment you will be using, cleaning regimes, limiting the number of people allowed in your premises and other social distancing guidelines that you will be implementing.
What options are you offering for bookings and purchases?
Is your business able to take contactless payments? Do you take phone bookings or payments and are you prepared for an increase in call volumes? Does your business have an online shop? If you are expecting to have a high demand for your products or services, then consider including ways for people to get in touch and setting up an email autoresponder with further details.
Do you need to set customer expectations?
Letting customers know that you are operating a strict social distancing policy in your business and they may be asked to wait outside will help ensure they know what to expect when visiting your premises. You can also explain that these measures are in place to help keep them protected while they visit your business.
Do you need to make changes to your workforce?
In addition to the physical changes that your business is making you may also need to consider making changes to your workforce. Whether this is returning furloughed staff to their current roles or restructuring your business to account for changes in your operations. Inevitably some businesses will need to make changes to their staffing and may make changes to employees contracted hours in addition to making redundancies in order to continue operating. Other considerations include how your business can protect the most vulnerable staff as well as utilising staff who have had coronavirus in more customer-facing roles.
Reintegrating staff after lockdown
One of the biggest challenges that employers may face following lockdown is how to integrate their workforce back into the workplace. This process will look very different depending on your business type. For example, a physical retail store will need staff to come into the workplace whereas an office-based business may only need a skeleton staff to be present in the office while others work remotely.
Businesses should also consider the impact that continued school closures could have on their workforce as parents may find it difficult to arrange adequate childcare. Flexibility should be a key consideration and supporting employees through this transition will be a necessary part of getting businesses back up and running.
Supporting staff with their mental health
Lockdown has been a real challenge for many people leading to a rise in the number of people struggling with poor mental health. Loss of loved ones and loneliness, anxiety, and depression caused by isolation should not be overlooked. Putting in place robust support mechanisms to deal with these issues will help your business deal with the impact of mental health in the workplace.
As well as mental health some employees may be afraid to return to work simply because they do not want to travel on busy public transport or be in close contact with colleagues or customers. This is where you should be communicating to your staff the steps that you have put in place to keep them protected and reduce the risk of coronavirus in the workplace. Measures such as staggered start times, increased social distancing measures and the provision of PPE should help to alleviate many of these concerns.