Government guidance on managing the return to work has consisted of just a few pointers released this week to help bosses navigate the changes.
Employers can ask staff to wear masks indoors and maintain social distancing. Measures like plastic screens and back-to-back desks are encouraged in a bid to reduce the risks.
Similarly, companies can decide to adopt ‘fixed teams or partnering’ akin to Covid bubbles used in full lockdown.
The Bathroom Manufactures Association recently hosted an event on how best to support colleagues as offices and workplaces re-open.
A range of HR, physical and mental health considerations should be weighed up during this transition phase.
The panel of experts who spoke at the event agreed on one resounding message – create an inclusive and supportive culture. This is key because although we have all navigated our way through this pandemic, individually, we have all been impacted in different ways, and the next transition will be daunting for some staff.
There are also many potential legal hurdles when it comes to vaccines. Employees can encourage staff to be vaccinated, that is a reasonable step to reducing risk. But if you are considering taking a mandatory approach, it is an area of unchartered territory legally, and we are recommending BMA members seek proper legal guidance before taking this step.
Many office environments have recognised the potential of home working and are either continuing with it or introducing a mixed model of home and office.
Jonathan Daniel, Director at FitBack Physiotherapy, a BMA affiliate member, said: “From the moment we get up to the time we go to bed, the majority of our time is spent in a series of flex positions. Sedentary workers are just as at risk as manual colleagues.
“We should guide colleagues to find time to move from that flex position at least every 45 mins. I know a lot of people struggle to fit in exercise but how about trying some movements during the two or three minutes when you are making a cup of tea.
“It’s important in a hybrid working environment for home workers to be supported as well as those who are working in the office environment.
“If someone walks into an office you can see if they have a bad back, this is not so obvious for home workers so you must keep the contact and communicate with these members of staff.”