As lockdown restrictions are loosened, many of us are now thinking about how we will return our staff back to our physical work premises. Many are anxious about how to do this in the most efficient way, that ensures staff are comfortable and able to cope with the transition.
This is just a process, like many business activities, and with a little planning, forethought and preparation, can be executed smoothly and in a way that reassures staff, considering any challenges staff may face and be less stressful for all involved.
This is a great example of how having a suite of SOP's can make conducting and managing change like this smooth, controlled and well executed, for all involved. Having a documented process makes managing this phase of transition less stressful for all. Remember, your staff are looking to you for reassurance during these uncertain times.
You may have staff who are scared to return to work; scared of the virus, scared due to lack of understanding of what will happen, of how they will be schedule back. Having a clearly mapped out plan can assuage those fears and allow everyone to prepare, both mentally and physically. Most importantly, always communicate your plan to your staff. It is often the unknown that makes people anxious. Having a plan that is communicated will reassure staff - they will know what to expect, nothing will come as a surprise.
Firstly, you need to consider what you, as the business owner want to achieve, and by when. Think about how you want your staff to return - will this be an all-in at once operation, or will you phase return? Will you be reopening your business full time, or, again, phasing an increase in hours over time? Now is the time to decide and to document your intentions, marking out key dates when milestones will happen. So, for example, what day will staff first come back to work, what date will business be fully open as usual?
Once you have your time-line planned out, you need to start to consider the logistics involved with your return to work plan.
Think about your premises and how your staff move around the space. Do you have enough space to ensure social distancing? Visit your site and walk around, as your staff would, on an ordinary day. Remember to visit restrooms and break-out areas. if you don’t have the space to ensure distancing, consider a phased return for your staff; as one finishes a shift, another starts.
Again, document your decisions and communicate to your staff.
Remember also – not all children are back at school, so some of your staff may have childcare issues. Open discussion will allow both parties to come to a compromise that suits both manager and staff.
One you have your staff working on site, conduct 1-2-1 meetings with each member as soon as you are able. Talk about any fears your staff may have and make sure you address and reassure for each point. Pay particular attention to your staffs wellbeing. Change can be hard, and this transition is particularly sensitive as it deals with our health – both physical and mental. Document how you will monitor and support your staffs wellbeing during the period of change and communicate to staff. Talking to your staff will help them feel included, help them to adjust. Its been a difficult time – some may be dealing with bereavement also, so make sure they know your door is open and try to be understanding. What may come easy to you could be extremely difficult for other – we are all different with different coping mechanisms and different levels of comfort.
Always have PPE available for use. Consider how staff should report any symptoms they may start to show. What should staff do if they feel unwell? Who should they report to and how? Document this in your plan, and communicate this to staff – are you seeing a pattern here?!
You don’t have to, legally, give staff notice for their return to work, but it would certainly go a long way to helping them adjust to the idea. Give them time to prepare for return. Document the date in your SOP.
Once documented, you’ve created, at the very least, the bones of your Return to Work SOP. This is just one process of many that, when documented, will ensure a smooth transition that will help both you and your staff feel less anxious about what to expect. and will help you to prepare and deal with any challenges that show themselves. It will also help you in the future as you will have a tried ad tested method for returning staff to work.
SOP's have multiple benefits to a business and are something a highly recommend for efficient business activities.
They are just one of the specialist services I offer. If you feel you would benefit from support creating your return to work plan, or any other processes for your business, get in touch with me – I’d be happy to help.
Stay Safe, Everyone!