In order to be successful, every employer needs a productive and secure workforce. Now is the time to assess what the new world of work will be, how to prepare for the reopening of workplaces, re-onboarding the workforce back into the workplace and to understand what will change mid-to-long-term and what will change forever.
What COVID-19 has taught us about Australian business is that, when pushed, most employers, staff and operations are quite flexible (even if once upon a time it felt impossible or impractical). And for many sectors, remote working has been implemented successfully.
HR and managers will need to approach re-onboarding strategically and individually for a smooth return. Without flexibility and a sympathetic approach, the businesses could lose some of its best workers just at the time when they are most needed.
In general terms, though, your risk assessments should explore questions such as:
- Can employees safely enter and exit your business premises?
- Is there a risk of third parties such as clients or customers entering the workplace?
- Will meetings have to take place in confined spaces?
- Are facilities such as toilets, kitchens, and breakout spaces safe to be open? Will you need to consider reduced access to these facilities?
- Is there a requirement for First Aiders and fire marshals to be present if the business reopens?
Who should return to work and when?
- The next consideration is who should be returning to work and when. Not all of your staff will need to return to work at the same time, and a phased return will help to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spreading. Think about how many staff your business will need to carry out day-to-day operations and consider whether this can be achieved safely.
- This will depend on how many people you can safely bring back maintaining the social distancing rules. Some employers will need to consider rotating staff through shift work and working from home, and staggered start and finish times in order to maintain the 2-meter distance rules Consideration must be given to the safe usage of hygiene facilities, rest areas, and building entrances and exits.
The crisis has forced so many firms to implement a remote working policy. In many cases, as we’ve noted, the transition to a more flexible style of working has been successful, opening up the discussion as to why remote working isn’t more widely accepted
The benefits of remote and flexible working
When we stop and think about it, there are actually plenty of benefits to flexible working policies. Whilst employees are working from home, they are able to achieve a much better work-life balance than they would if they were travelling to work every day – for some commuting employees, the transition to remote working will have freed up a considerable amount of time.
Equally, remote working policies make it much easier for people with disabilities to enjoy a fulfilling career. If flexible working policies were more widely accepted by employees, this would open up a world of new opportunities for many people in society. Remote working also limits the risk of exposure to illness, which will still be the case once COVID-19 is no longer a threat.
Technology and automation
Whether you choose to adopt a phased re-onboarding approach or extend your remote working policy, there are many other ways in which technology and automation can help you achieve your aims.
Time and attendance
The salient issue with remote working is time and attendance. In a conventional office setting, it’s much easier to determine who is in the building and at what times. Conversely, remote working tends to complicate time and attendance.
Despite this, any issues you face with time and attendance whilst remote working can be overcome through the implementation of cloud-based time and attendance software. This type of software enables workers to track their time easily online whilst providing managers with full visibility of tracked hours and sick leave.
Mobile workforce management software can even use employee’s smartphones for geolocation tracking; further assisting with safe working practices. Remote workers who are required to carry out their jobs on the road, for example, carers in the community, can log their location, arrival, and departure information in a central location. Not only does this provide the worker with security knowing that someone knows where they are should anything go awry, but also helps you as an employer keep your workers safe, manage job cost allocation, and reduce time spent chasing or checking where everyone is.
Enforcing the rules
Once you’ve created a system of rules to protect employees from the virus, you’ll have to consider how your managers can enforce them. Remember that this has been a particularly uncertain time for us all, so a sympathetic approach will be required. It will take some time for employees to understand and adapt to the new measures that have been put in place so effective communication is needed now, more than ever.