Our Top Tips for Returning to Work Safely
24 September 2020

Our Top Tips for Returning to Work Safely

This year has seen more changes than we ever thought possible. It’s hard to believe that it was only several months ago when we were all encouraged to work from home. But if you are now considering returning to work in your office then you should be aware of the main safety aspects that are now in place.

ACAS has published some useful guidance that is designed to help you understand what you should expect when returning to work. We believe that understanding office-based safety precautions may ease the transition, especially if you’re feeling nervous about returning to work.

When it comes to safety in the workplace, there are numerous rules in place which are designed to ensure that offices and other working environments are deemed ‘COVID-secure’.

Here are our top tips on how you can ensure that you are returning to work safely.

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  1. Implement Socially Distanced Working Areas

Social distancing is key. Desks should be adequately spaced out, ideally two metres apart. You may wish to use tape or paint to mark out dedicated work areas or implement additional safety precautions such as Perspex screens to create physical barriers between colleagues.

  1. Sit Side-by-Side Rather than Face-to-Face

Although there is still much to learn about the spread of Covid-19, it is thought that it is caused by droplets that can emerge as you speak or cough. Therefore, sitting next to colleagues (two metres apart), rather than opposite them could increase safety and reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading.

  1. Use Face Masks or Other Coverings to Protect Others

If you need to move around a lot, remember to use your face mask or face covering. The use of a face mask may provide limited protection to others (not the wearer) and should be used with hygiene and social distancing measures.

  1. Try to Avoid Movement Where Possible

Limiting social interactions with others is one of the most important ways of reducing the spread of the virus. Although it may be tempting to move around the office to talk to a co-worker, for safety reasons, we recommend that you try to communicate via email/phone where possible.

  1. Blend Office and Home Working

You may wish to facilitate a blend of office-based and home working environments. Many employers are now offering a combination of the two; facilitating those who wish to continue working from home as well as those who are considering returning to work permanently.

There is a strong belief that safety in the workplace can only be achieved if there are reduced staffing numbers present. Therefore, working from home where possible could make a big difference to safety levels in the office.

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Further Steps You Can Take

If you are unsure about returning to the office, then you have the right to talk to your employer (confidentially) about your options. There may be an easy compromise that could give you more confidence about the situation.

It may be that you continue to implement working from home, or you could suggest returning to work in the office just once a week where necessary. If you’re working in a public-facing role, your employer may be able to find alternative tasks for you to reduce contact with others.

Citizen’s Advice says that “Your employer can ask you to come back to the place you usually work, but they must do things to keep you safe from coronavirus.”

If you do not feel that your employer is following the right safety precautions, then you have a right to refuse to return to work. We recommend that you speak constructively with your line manager, but your options could include taking annual leave or unpaid parental leave. If you are classed as vulnerable, then you may be able to move onto sick pay, although this depends on your company’s policies.


What About Flexible Working?

At the start of the year, flexible working was often felt to be about working hours and having the eligibility to choose your start/finish times. Now, it’s about choosing between returning or working in an office environment or working from home.

For many years, we’ve been on the cusp of a digital revolution. This year’s pandemic has brought about great change for businesses that have been forced to introduce working from home policies. Despite some initial challenges, it’s clear that many employees have welcomed this new style of work, and we believe that working from home will become the new normal.

Some people will welcome the ease of the daily workday – with no lengthy commutes or traffic jams to consider, it’s surprising how much productive you can be when you are working from home. But it’s important to remember that there’s no easy, one-size-fits-all approach. Whilst many workers may have enjoyed the benefits of working from home, others will be eagerly contemplating returning to office-based work. They may have limited space, or they may have found that it’s too difficult to work from home effectively. There are many professions where confidentiality is required (such as law, social work, probation, counselling, etc), and working from home without a home office is almost impossible. For those professionals, returning to work may be vital to continue providing an effective service.

If you are considering working from home for the foreseeable future, then you may wish to invest in a dedicated garden office. This can help prevent the spread of the virus by reducing your social contact with others. It also means that you are free from office-based safety precautions such as face masks/face coverings or Perspex screens separating you from others. In its place, you can have your own private area to work from, whilst still providing you with an effective boundary between your personal and professional life.

Office Interior from Ultra Range

Office Interior from Ultra Range

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