As the UK prepares to start getting people back to work, there’s no time like the present to begin thinking about which measures need to be implemented within your workplace before your employees can safely return to business as usual.
While we might not know exactly what the Government has up its sleeve to help businesses successfully emerge from lockdown, preserving employee health and wellbeing will undoubtedly be at the top of the list. From continued social distancing to increased sanitisation to changes in working styles, there’s plenty of things you can start planning and preparing for now that will ensure your employees remain safe when they return to the workplace.
We felt it was important to consult with the life science businesses that we work with to discover which measures they’re introducing to their workplaces post-lockdown. We hope that by sharing our findings with you, you too can create a safe environment that helps you and your employees feel safe and confident when you go back to work.
Implement social distancing wherever possible
We’re thrilled to announce that 100% of the life science businesses who took part in our survey are introducing social distancing measures within their workspace and break areas. This is a reassuring result that shows that the industry is taking back to work preparations seriously.
When we asked what measures they were implementing to achieve a safe 2 metre distance between employees, rearranging workstations came out on top with 100% all looking to review their current setup. Before you do this in your own workplace, it can be beneficial to carry out an assessment of the space to determine how this can be achieved safely and without causing too much disruption to your team. 37% of the life science professionals we spoke to are going to use outdoor areas and other parts of their workplace building to create additional breakrooms, which is also something you can consider when carrying out your assessment.
To prevent any unnecessary crowding during peak times during the day, 87% of those asked also said that they plan on staggering the arrival and departure times of their employees. This can be achieved by creating new work rotas for each of your employees before they return to the workplace. You may also want to consider
creating one-way walking systems, opening additional exits and entrances to your workplace and using floor markings to encourage further social distancing.
If you’re struggling to facilitate keeping your employees to keep 2 metres apart, for instance due to lack of space or limitations to technology, there’s still things you can introduce to keep everyone safe and healthy. There’s the option of installing barriers in between workstations or using back-to back or side-to-side working, which is something 50% of the businesses we asked are planning on introducing to prevent their employees from working face to face.
Another option is to organise a shift system and limiting the number of people working in the office at the same time. 62% of our survey participants are also planning on using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ system to help reduce the number of people each person has contact with whilst at work. So, rather than working in an entire office full, each person will only be required to work with a select few.
To continue to limit the spread of the virus, our workplaces understandably need to be kept as clean and sanitary as possible. The Government recommends that workplaces are deep cleaned before allowing employees return to work and they encourage management teams to reinforce more frequent cleaning routines going forward. Close attention should be place on high-traffic areas such as receptions and high-contact objects such as phones, door handles and keyboards during these new routines. 100% of the people we spoke to said they intend to encourage more surface cleaning within the workplace to prevent the spread of germs.
But workplace cleanliness should also be extended to your employees too. Thankfully, this is something that all of our participants agreed with, with 100% stating they will start providing handwash or sanitiser at entry and exit points to their workplace to help protect employee health. To reduce any anxiety that your employees may be feeling towards cleanliness and hygiene, ensure that your workplace has plenty of hand soap, disposable hand towels and antibacterial gels and wipes for them to use upon their return to work.
Make remote working possible if you can
Working remotely or from home is still being encouraged by the Government and according to our survey, 100% of the life science businesses we spoke to have been able to achieve this throughout lockdown. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure all reasonable steps are taken to make working from home possible for your employees, particularly those who are considered vulnerable.
Whether because of medical conditions, being pregnant or living with a key worker, there are a number of reasons why some of your employees might be considered vulnerable and having to self-isolate right now. This means that they might not be able to return to the workplace as soon as the rest of your team. To combat any feelings of loneliness and isolation they might be feeling during this time, start to consider way in which you can increase connectivity with them such as weekly video calls or virtual socials events
However, if your employees are not able to work from home for whatever reason, the Government has stated that these employees should go to work. To make sure all of your employees are on the same page and understand when they are required to return to the office, clear communication is key. 77% of our survey participants have been informed that their business is or has worked on plans for bringing people safely back into work, but only 11% have been given a date to go back to work.
By introducing these key measures into your workplace, you can create a work environment that not only limits the spread of the virus, but also makes your employees feel healthy, happy and eager to get back to work.