How to lead a confident return to work after coronavirus

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A recent survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has shown that 44% of UK workers have concerns about the prospect of returning to work following COVID-19.

Their main concern was the risks posed to their health and that of their family of returning and a third of workers having anxiety over the commute to work.

Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD, said that returning to the workplace needed to be ‘mutually agreed’ by employees and employers, and that organisations should ‘go out of their way’ to address any concerns.

How companies react and commit to the “new normal” is going to have a significant effect on the moral and confidence of staff. So, what can you do to build up the trust and confidence in your employees to alleviate any concerns they have?
  1. Carry out a detailed assessment of risks and solutions – ask employees for their input as they might think of something you haven’t thought of – and then share the full assessment with them.
  2. Get the timing of the return right. Involve the staff in your decision making – determine who can remain working remotely, who needs to return?
  3. Demonstrate a culture of cleanliness with a deep clean and the plans you have for de-sanitising and cleaning moving forward.
  4. Consider how you are going to accommodate social distancing. This will depend on the type of business but think about limiting customers at any time in a retail environment, spacing out desks, creating one-way walkways, screens, etc. If it’s impossible to keep 2m apart, then consider whether that activity needs to continue, keeping the time doing that activity as short as possible, staggering start and finish times or implementing a shift system.
  5. What protective equipment do you need? At the very minimum a pack of alcohol wipes, hand sanitiser, gloves, tissues and other items for staying safe is a very small act that could go a long way in inspiring confidence.
  6. Be prepared for the inevitable requests from employees to change the way they work going forward – if they could work from home during the Pandemic, why can’t they continue to do that.
  7. Recognise that some employees may have struggled being isolated at home. Talk to everyone individually, ask them how they’ve coped and how they are feeling and if there’s anything you can to help them adjust.
There’s plenty of evidence to show that the more you involve your employees in the decision-making and communicate with them, the more engaged and confident they are likely to be in returning. If you’re planning a return, it’s very much making it a collaborative process.

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