September 28, 2020
One of the many unprecedented things about 2020 is the way that the global COVID-19 pandemic has led to millions of workers around the world staying away from their office or workplace. Either through furlough schemes or temporary ‘working from home’ measures, many people across the job spectrum have had to adapt to a new way of doing things.
In the UK, the situation has seen an almost total shutdown of centres of commercial activity in many cities, while elsewhere, factories, warehouses and other large employers have seen their normal routines disrupted or mothballed.
After months away from the workplace, millions have now had to come to terms with going back to work, even if it might be under ‘new normal’ conditions. Many are finding that there are added stresses and strains that they didn’t have to deal with before, while others may have suffered throughout the lockdown in ways that will only now become apparent.
Taking all of this into account, businesses and employers of all types now face the challenge of how best to help their employees and workers make the move back to the workplace and a return to some sort of normality.
For the past few months, everyone has been bombarded with messages of how to keep safe from COVID-19, and drastic social distancing and other measures have had to be strictly followed.
With the relaxation of lockdown over the height of the summer, there has been some respite, though many people now worry about a second wave in the winter months. This is all coming together to create a worrying scenario for many people who have spent most of the year in a state of near isolation and now have to face going back into many different social situations.
Public transport, workplace environments, and all of the additional ‘normal’ day-to-day things such as simply buying a coffee or sandwich have all taken on additional risks that were not there before. It’s no wonder that many people faced with the idea of going back to work are finding it a challenge.
The pressures that many employees are now feeling are understandable and, as such, they deserve a thoughtful and appropriate response from employers. More than that, there are now many different aspects of additional health and safety measures that are required to be put in place by businesses to make sure that everyone can work in a COVID-19-secure environment.
The retooling of workspaces themselves, with access to communal areas being changed or restricted and safety measures such as Perspex screens or dividers, is just one of the ways that physical changes are being made.
A relaxation of attendance requirements and a continuation of a work-from-home approach in some circumstances is also being encouraged in some quarters while, at the same time, there is conflicting advice to ‘get back to the office’ in order to try to save the city-centre service economy.
However, there is also a less obvious danger that needs to be taken into account, and this is the physical and mental health impacts of lockdown that are quite separate from the coronavirus.
Although the issue of testing for COVID-19 is never far from the headlines at the moment, other illnesses and disease are also of concern.
With so many people having spent months away from their workplace, mental health will have declined for some. Alcohol consumption and even recreational drug use are likely to have had an impact on a small but significant number of people who have tried to deal with the stress and worry in their own ways.
Although government testing programmes for the virus itself might be under the spotlight, employers can also make their own contribution by undertaking their own testing schemes.
Intec Hep C is a rapid anti-HCV test and is one of a range of products from Matrix Diagnostics that detects the presence of viruses in blood. The simple test requires a drop of blood, which is immediately analysed by the stick device. This means that no samples have to be sent away for testing in a laboratory, as results are produced on the spot.
Possibly the biggest challenge that every employer faces at the moment is working out how best to give their workforce confidence in how things are moving forward.
For many businesses, there will actually be a chance to re-evaluate previous working practices, and some may embrace a work-from-home ethos and make savings on commercial property outlays. Many others will need to get back to a pre-pandemic workplace scenario in order to maximise productivity and efficiency.
Both positions mean that workers’ minds must be put at ease. As one of the biggest and most common worries at the moment does seem to revolve around the safety of physically travelling to a place of work and then spending a day in an enclosed environment, it is up to employers to use every instrument at their disposal to lay worries to rest and assure employees that their safety is always a priority.