5 things to consider as the great return to office begins

After 18 months of working from home due to Government imposed restrictions, it is once again permissible for people to start returning to their office or workplace.

After the great remote working experiment, foisted upon us by the sudden arrival of the virus, it marks the start of another experiment around hybrid working as many staff and their employers grapple with work time being split between an office and home.

But as you prepare to return to your workplace, or in the case of employers’ welcome employees back, what do you need to keep in mind?

1. Slowly, slowly

The Government advice on returning to the workplace is that it should be staggered and phased.

Indeed, at least until 22 October, although people can visit the office again, it should only be for “specific business requirements”.

2. Get your office space ready

By now, most office managers will have taken, or at least started taking, the necessary steps to prepare the environment.

Physical distancing will remain at 2 metres for the time being and if that is not possible workarounds like screens, for example, will be required.

Others will be operating a team-based system, dividing the workforce into groups, and letting each group in on specific days while the others remain at home.

Meeting rooms also have to be measured to work out how many can safely fit in them at any one time.

Hygiene measures, like wipes, antibacterial gels, regular cleaning, etc need to be in place.

Ventilation is also key, so if you haven’t already done so, you should familiarise yourself with the advice in the latest Covid workplace safety protocols agreed by Government, unions and employers.

Masks will have to be worn in many circumstances, again detailed in that document.

While signage is also important, reminding workers what is expected of them as they move around.

Measures should also be put in place around contact tracing, so that if cases are identified, it will be possible to figure out who may be a close contact.

And you’ll need a plan to deal with an employee who becomes unwell with Covid symptoms while in work.

Remember though, employers do not have a right to ask an employee their vaccination status, nor are workers obliged to disclose it.

3. It is good to talk

Consultation will be key over the next few weeks and months, as more and more people return to the office.

4. Don’t forget those left at home

With people coming back into the office, the attention will once again refocus naturally to there, because that is where it will seem most of the action will be happening.

But this is going to be a slow build, and there will continue to be workers based some or all of the time at home.

5. Cop-on is key

This is all new territory for everyone and cop-on will be key over the coming months.

So if you are an employee and have Covid symptoms, don’t come into the office without getting medical advice and, if necessary, a test.

If you do, at best you will make others feel uncomfortable and at worst you will be spreading the virus.

For more information please seehttps://www.rte.ie/news/business/2021/0917/1247463-covid-workplace-latest/

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