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Boost briefing: What’s your lockdown exit strategy?

Opening up after lockdown BANNER

As we are now several weeks into the lockdown, most businesses and employees have experienced drastic changes to their usual daily routines. Boost business relationship manager, Alan Reid, highlights just some of the considerations businesses need to make before reopening.

Whether in lockdown and working from home, or self-isolating as part of the ‘at risk’ category or working every hour of the day providing essential services and products, our working lives have all changed beyond measure.

If you have been operating your business on a reduced basis or had to close the doors completely, now is the time to start to consider the implications of a restart as we await the government’s exit strategy from the coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown. I am sure you are aware of many issues you could potentially come across. The following list, while no means exhaustive, could highlight other ideas about problems and issues you may encounter as you 'reopen' your business.

Making it safe for employees to return to work

Health and safety should always be foremost in an employer's mind, particularly if a majority of a workforce has been furloughed and away from the normal work environment. Issues to consider could include:

  • What operational changes will you need to implement for employees to safely return to the workplace? For example, it is highly likely that some form of social distancing will still be required for a significant portion of 2020 and consider how can you accommodate this.
  • How will you communicate with staff and ensure that any safety concerns that they have are listened to and acted upon where appropriate? Consider if they are able to travel safely and if they will need new or additional PPE.
  • Do you need to re-induct employees and update or review risk assessments? Employees may have forgotten some processes and work practices. training and refresher programmes may be needed to enable them to work safely.
  • Do you need to increase and intensify your site cleaning? If this is sub-contracted, you might need to check if your provider can meet these new requirements.
  • Have statutory checks elapsed such as boiler pressure tests, Gas Safe registered inspections, lifting gear inspections? Check before opening up.
  • Have regulated/insurance requirements such as fork-lift truck licenses lapsed? Again check before using of any mechanical equipment.
  • Can more employees work from home on a permanent or rota basis? This might assist the social distancing at work, some staff might even request it so be prepared. 

Whatever your situation may be, considering risk and using a risk assessment process will enable you to analyse the issues prior to restarting, or increasing your operations.

Warming up business and operational considerations

As well as health and safety considerations, there could be a whole host of other issues which become apparent as your business ramps up again. Here is a short checklist:

  • Have your premises been vacant? Whether you have a large production facility or small retail property, check all your equipment is still in good working order and check for break ins and rodent infestation.
  • If you are manufacturing, will the production line start up smoothly? You may need to stagger staff returning in stages to allow time for maintenance and re-commissioning.
  • Similarly, does the heating or air-conditioning still work? Check before you bring back employees and check your gas system too. And run the taps to freshen up the water.
  • Is your IT system still operational? Can all of your employees log back in on day one? You may need to arrange for a full diagnostic and test prior to staff returning. IT consultants are going to be busy so arrange it soon.
  • How will your furloughed employees respond when they return to work? Make sure you facilitate their return to work and how feel about returning after a long absence.
  • What is the material stock situation and check are your existing suppliers able to deliver? They might also be using new terms and conditions or new pricing structures to meet demand.
  • Are your customers ready to receive goods and services from you? Also consider how you may change your delivery services to adhere to social distancing rules.
  • Are your shipping partners ready to support you or have they got new contracts? Check first and make sure any new contracts have relevant clauses to protect you in possible future closures.
  • If a proportion of your staff were furloughed, will there be tension between the ones who were retained and the ones who were laid off? Consider employee moral, perhaps some one-to-ones over the phone first will help.

Whilst this may seem like a lot of potential issues and pitfalls, and there may be even more that are specific to your particular situation, but now is the time to plan in order to minimise the impacts of a return to work. Being prepared and ready to return, whenever it may be, means you'll give both your business and staff the best chance possible to hit the ground running.

Alan is part of the Boost #AskForHelp team working right through this crisis and at the end of the phone or Zoom meeting ready to discuss any issues regarding the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on your business.  From a simple conversation right through to facilitating a mentor or peer to peer sessions, we are ready and waiting. We can help. You’re not alone in this. #AskForHelp. Call 0800 488 0057

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