With the Australian and State governments now beginning to ease restrictions, most companies should be working on a change management Action Plan of all the particulars needed to get the staff and workplace ready for their return. When creating your action plan here are a few thought prompters to consider:
- In what stages will employees return
With restrictions easing, more and more employees will gradually be allowed to come back to the workplace. In what order and capacity this will happen should be worked out beforehand.
Firstly, which employees are willing to come back would have to be established. Those who care for high risk family members or those who have to take public transport may be less willing for a speedy return. One way to establish this is with Managers having general conversations with staff regarding what problems might arise returning to the workplace and how these could be overcome.
Other people who need to be consulted with are your contractors. Cleaners, IT company, HVAC, Plants etc. Is there anything needed before they can return?
With the above information in mind you can start identifying when and what order of staff could
to return to the office. Some options to consider include:
- Put your staff into teams and alternate teams coming into the office. i.e. Team 1 on Monday and Tuesday, Team 2 on Wednesday and Thursday.
- You might find sections of your staff (i.e. Accounts team) might work better from home while your Reception and Office Management would be good to start back earlier.
- Your organization might enjoy the benefits of some staff continuing to work from home indefinitely.
- Get the workplace ready for staff to return
Step 1 of this would be a full clean and sanitization of the whole office. But moving forward how regularly will this occur? Some offices have a full decontamination spray in the evenings, some have roving cleaners come through 4 times a day sanitizing all the main touch points (door handles, keyboards etc). Some smaller workplaces are opting to have each staff member supplied with the materials to sanitise their own space regularly and an employee overall responsible for the common areas. Regardless of your chosen method there must be separate rubbish bins for discarded sanitising items.
- Social Distancing Measures to implement
What social distancing measures are you going to implement? Some to consider would be:
- Workstations or desks that may need to be rearranged or blocked off.
- Placing stickers on the floor in common areas to indicate safe spacing.
- Distancing posters on the walls.
- Rearranging meeting rooms to allow less occupants to guarantee safe distancing. This would include signage on the doors, crosses on the tables, chairs removed, reminders on the walls.
If you are in a high-rise commercial building. Discuss with the building manager how your staff will get to work through the lift system if only 1 or 2 people are allowed in the lift at one time. Would you like to stagger start and finish times?
- Health of your staff going forward
Best practices to consider in a comprehensive approach may include:
- Communication of personal responsibilities by employees (e.g., reminder posters about personal hygiene, social distancing, face coverings, stay home when ill, etc.)
- Implementation of policies around limiting the sharing of equipment that is touched by hands, face (e.g., phones).
- The removal of personal belongings from shared workspaces.
- Will you be implementing temperature checks on staff as they enter the workplace?
- Availability of face coverings (which would need to be replaced regularly), soap for handwashing, and hand-sanitizer strategically located.
- Some workplaces have tea and coffee stations with bulk condiments. These could be changed for single serve sachets.
Lastly, but probably the most important aspects are the safety and wellbeing of your staff.
This includes your employees knowing about what measures you are taking so they feel safe to return to work. This should be a primary consideration in all your communications. Make sure they are aware about what measures you are taking (e.g. how often the premises are cleaned, temperature checks, all social distancing measures etc.)
We haven’t included things that should already have been implemented such as what to do if an employee does contract Covid-19 or what should we do about incoming mail etc. Going forward, the sky is the limit in terms of how far you would like to take this (touch free solutions for soap, paper towels, automatic doors etc).
On a more IT related note, there have definitely been some positivity come out of this. With the rush to work from home, Managers have had to work out online methods of coordinating with their staff without the need to be face-to-face. Going forward this opens up a lot of opportunities in terms of staff wellbeing and the business’ bottom line. With the same number of employees, workspaces can be downsized as not as many people are needed to come into the office. Working hours can be more fluid with limited needs to be in the office. When the boarders open up, staff can take more working holidays. With the reporting you have put in place you can be confident that their job is being taken care of regardless of where they are in the world.
We hope this has given you some things to consider so your transition back is as seamless as possible into whatever your business considers “new normal”.
Information for employers should be read in conjunction with other ‘What you need to know’, ‘Social distancing’ content on health.gov.au and the ‘Information about routine environmental cleaning and disinfection in the community’ information sheet found at www.health.gov.au/covid19resources.
For more information and resources on business continuity planning, go to: https://www.business.gov.au/New-to-business-essentials/When-things-dont-go-to-plan
For information on cleaning and disinfection, see the information sheet on ‘Information about routine environmental cleaning and disinfection in the community’ at https://health.govcms.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-information-aboutroutine-environmental-cleaning-and-disinfection-in-the-community