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Returning to Work After Covid-19: Keeping Customers, Workers and Visitors Safe

Businesses intent on going back to business are being advised to prepare themselves, their employees and their customers for the ‘new norms’ of workplace life.

As the government’s easing of Covid-19 lockdown measures continues, questions are being asked as to the safety of returning to the workplace. Rather than advising or requiring workers across the UK to work from home, the government is now actively encouraging a return to the office for millions of workers.

On one hand, evidence suggests that the worst of the Covid-19 crisis is behind us and the risk of transmission is comparatively low. However, this doesn’t mean that the risk posed by the virus has disappeared entirely. Nor is it expected to evaporate into thin air for the foreseeable future at least.

In turn, businesses intent on going back to business are being advised to prepare themselves, their employees and their customers for the ‘new norms’ of workplace life. If it’s true to say we won’t truly be in the clear until an effective vaccine is available, we’ve some time to go before normalcy as we knew it returns.

Transfer of Responsibility

One of the main criticisms directed the way of the government throughout the coronavirus crisis is the lack of clear, concise and concrete advice. Increasingly, the government has been adopting a semi-liberal ‘common sense’ approach to the easing of lockdown measures, instructing the British public to conduct itself in a safe and sensible manner.

Something that clearly comes more naturally to some than others.

For businesses, this transfer of responsibility poses a long list of questions and complications. For the first time since the outbreak of Covid-19, it is now the responsibility of the employer to ensure their workplace is safe for its workforce and its customers. If you think your workplace is safe, you can more or less demand that your employees return to the office.

The issue is that if the opposite turns out to be the case, it’s you that’s in the firing line. Not to mention, the fact that there’s currently nothing you can do to provide a 100% guarantee of safety.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of measures all businesses can and should be taking to safeguard staff and customers. Staying safe as lockdown eases is a shared responsibility, but it’s the obligation of every employer to do everything they can to provide a suitably safe working environment.

Essential Indicators and Reminders

The use of physical indicators and basic reminders has proved exceptionally effective throughout the crisis. More often than not, ensuring employees and customers do the right thing is as easy as providing clear and continuous reminders. Examples of which include hand-washing reminder posters, social distancing floor tape, reminders to wear a mask where applicable and so on.

Likewise, anything you can do to drive home the importance of keeping a safe distance from those in the vicinity can and will make a difference. Even as the government reduces its social distancing recommendations, leaving plenty of space between you and the next person is still advisable. If there’s an area of your business where people are likely to congregate for any reason, provide as many reminders as possible in clearly visible locations.

Where necessary, physical barriers (or basic barrier printed tape for social distancing) can be used to physically prevent people from accessing specific areas around your premises.  Or perhaps, to ensure people don’t sit too closely together in canteens and relaxation spaces.

Enhanced Sanitation Standards

It remains your job to ensure those present on your premises maintain the required hygiene standards. Provision of plenty of hand sanitizer can help, as can a stockpile of antibacterial wipes on-hand for workers to keep their workstations clean.

The point of overriding importance is, of course, that of keeping people safe and healthy. It’s worth remembering that if so much of a single case of Covid-19 is even suspected in your workplace, your business will be shut down for a minimum of 14 days while everyone isolates. The consequences of which could be catastrophic.

Therefore, whatever it takes to keep your customers, workers and visitors safe is something you really should be doing. It’s a small price to pay to get your business and the UK economy as a whole back on its feet.

Author: Craig Upton