Returning to Work After the 19th of July? What You Need to Know

by Rejus, 16th July 2021
Returning to Work After the 19th of July? What You Need to Know

It’s been confirmed that the majority of lockdown restrictions are coming to an end on July 19th, including the guideline to work from home whenever possible. If your office has been closed for most of the past 15 months, or you’ve been operating on a rotating flexible schedule for your staff, you may be unsure with how to proceed safely. Making sure your office is up to a safe standard as it returns to operating at full capacity is a necessary step for learning to live with the virus, and we have some advice below to help you out.

The Government is keen to get people back into offices, reducing spending in furlough money and helping city centre located businesses that are reliant on having employees in the building. The move in general is hopefully going to be a big positive step for the economy. Research has also shown that many employees are also wanting to return to the workspace, either due to mental health reasons or plain old preference, 31% of workers in the United Kingdom would favour full time back in the office.  89% of that same sample set would be happy with a fully flexible approach. The office is going to need to be safe and ready either way.

However, as mentioned in our article following the announcement, there is some confusion about how businesses are supposed to proceed in terms of guidelines, and the Government is still yet to address specifics on PPE, hand sanitisers etc.

Social Distancing will no longer be in effect, removing the two metre distance restriction for people you don’t live with. All limitations regarding how many people you can meet up with inside and outside are also being removed, which is a big part of why offices are expected to return to full capacity. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t need for precautions.

We’ve advised caution, and recommended you keep going with hand sanitisers for the foreseeable future, but we thought it would be useful to lay out tips & advice to make your transition back to normality as comfortable and safe as possible.

The first thing you need to take note of is that employees returning to work should be a gradual process. Government advice suggests that many of those working at home will continue to work this way over the summer.

Reboarding Process

If you’re an employer and haven’t already, set out a reboarding process to guide returning workers. This reboarding process should account for your usual office procedures, fire safety reminders, health & safety, and of course your rules for preventing the transmission of COVID-19. There’s no limit to what people can forget after having been on furlough, been working from home or even after getting used to coming into the office part time, so don’t skimp on the detail.

This reboarding should come in the form of a detailed but easy to understand manual, and ideally you'll go over it in a demonstrative training session.

31% of workes polled for the above mentioned study said that a major concern of their return to the office was whether or not it was COVID safe....

Functional Air Conditioning

What was once mainly used for comfort reasons has become a potential lifesaver. Having air conditioning that is checked and maintained on a regular basis will help keep the air in your office clean. Concerns for a lot of employers may be the cost of air conditioning, especially if it’s still to be installed. Remember that double jabbed people can still carry and pass on the virus even without displaying systems, so every step you can take as an employer to reduce the risk of transmitting the disease is a responsibility which can’t be ignored.

Plus, I’m sure your employees won’t argue against having climate control technology in the office.

Hand Sanitisers at Key Stations

Part of learning to live with the Virus is the improving of sanitary habits and continuing use of sanitary products. Having sanitisers at all entrance points within your building, and ideally more dispensers for the different offices within your building, is the best way to ensure that hands and surfaces are being kept clean of harmful bacteria. Having sanitiser bottles and wipes at desks or easily available to employees is also a recommended way of encouraging the continued use of these products. Spelling out exactly what you require of employees in the reboarding process will also encourage the use of sanitisers.

If you’re already doing all of this, you may be tempted to reduce your spending of this equipment after July 19th, but we advise againts this. The only certainty we do have is that COVID isn’t going away anytime soon. Deep Cleaning and Sanitisers are an efficient way of countering the threat. 

Facemasks: Voluntary or Required?

Facemasks will no longer be a legal requirement in public buildings and transport following July 19th, but the Government has said that they expect people to continue using the PPE equipment on a voluntary basis. This approach has caused confusion and concerns have been raised over B2C companies no longer having the legal stance to enforce telling customers to wear facemaks. Companies are expected to make their own decisions over policy surrounding face masks, something which will work for employees but not for customers.

Office environments should be fine without facemasks, helped a lot by the above discussed sanitisers and proper ventilation.

Positive Tests and Isolating

Something not going away anytime soon is the need to isolate following a positive COVID test. At the moment this remains at 10 days following a positive result. For people who live with, or have been in close proximity to, someone with COVID, the isolation period is 10 days following the start of the symptoms. If that person then starts to get systems themselves, the 10-day period resets from the day after they first started getting symptoms of their own.

Although the idea has been floated to remove isolation requirements for those that have been in contact with a positive case, the official stance is that you still have to isolate for 10 days. As you may have already encountered, the work from home processes implemented for lockdown have gone a long way in making this change smoother for some workers.

The good news is that isolation for those who live with or have been in close contact with an infected individual will end after August 16th for people under 18 or fully vaccinated.

It's a confusing time for businesses attempting to adjust to the changing rules, follow our Social Media so we can keep you up to date with what comes next.

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