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Author: Julie Jarvis

Published date: 2020/06


Since the government’s ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ guidelines were released back in May, employers have been taking the appropriate steps to ensure staff safety once doors are reopened. 

Most of the planning so far has been focused on methods to keep spaces clean and ensure occupants remain properly distanced to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. However, a significant part of this planning process should be centred around employee sentiment. 

A recent Forrester study revealed that 41 per cent of respondents were afraid to go back to work due to the virus. Such research reinforces that not only should employers question whether workers are actually prepared to return, but also explore the effect that any significant workplace change will have on them. 

Here are some tips to help ensure your employees are onboard with reopening plans and remain reassured that their health and safety remains a priority. 

Return-to-work survey 

The easiest way to gauge employee sentiment is to ask. Conducting a survey is a great way for them to provide feedback on your plans for reopening. Try to avoid multiple-choice or ‘scale of 1-10’ style questions and instead allow them to type their responses freely. Not only will this provide more information but also reinforces that you’re listening to individual concerns, rather than chasing percentages. 

A survey of this type mustn’t be anonymous. You want to be able to follow up with each person and address them on a one-to-one basis. Reassure them that their answers are purely in relation to returning to work and won’t be used for any other purposes. 

What’s going on outside of work? 

The old-school attitude of leaving your home life at the door no longer applies in the modern workplace. COVID-19 may have impacted your workforce in a multitude of ways, whether that’s losing a loved one, taking on additional care responsibilities or experiencing financial difficulties. While there’s only so much you can do to support employees outside of work, take a look at some of the business areas that could be adding to their stress. 

Last week, we discussed how to tackle commuting worries, but perhaps also acknowledge concerns regarding shared spaces, sharing a building with other tenants, or protocol regarding breaks and lunchtimes. In short, think about what might be weighing heavy on an employee’s mind right now and seek to provide the answers as soon as possible. Your return-to-work survey, as well as any group or one-to-one discussions, should help you identify these concerns.

Keep talking 

Understanding employee sentiment is an ongoing process for all businesses. The concerns workers have about returning to work will be different from those that arise once they’re back and experiencing this new way of working. Keep up regular surveys to gain insights and consider hosting dedicated COVID-19 discussions and updates. This is especially important given that your plans may change in line with government guidelines and recommendations. 

To prove you’re taking the matter of COVID-security seriously, keep all comms regarding the virus separate to standard business briefings. For example, employees don’t want to see a small mention at the end of a quarterly sales meeting. Instead, make sure it’s given the platform it deserves and hammers home the message that staff safety remains your top priority going forward. 

Help is at hand 

Our Ensuring a COVID-Secure Workplace blog series and accompanying guide aims to deliver the latest findings and insights to help employers safely reopen their doors. While every business will face their own unique challenges, we hope the series will go some way in helping you get back up and running safely.