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With the easing of the restrictions imposed by the government in an effort to ‘slow the spread’, many employers are now faced with a new challenge – how to implement a successful return to work strategy for their employees.

Indeed, what would such a strategy look like? It’s clear that it is not as simple as stating that “Monday’s the day, everyone can come back into the office” and it will all go back to pre-pandemic operations in a flash. Here’s where the three principles of

  • Healthy Bodies
  • Healthy Minds and
  • Healthy Spaces
can be implemented. But what are these principles and how do they apply to the current situation?

Healthy Bodies

Just like the pre-pandemic version of return-to-work for employees after an injury, employees should be healthy on their return to work. If the work is physical, employee fitness levels also need to be considered before returning to pre-shutdown operations.

‘Healthy’ these days also means that businesses need to have some procedures in place to screen for the likelihood of someone with COVID-19 entering the workplace. Temperature checking and daily health checks for everyone entering the worksite are one way that employers can send a clear message to staff that their health and safety is the number one priority for the business.

Fitness levels for a workforce that engages in physical activity as part of their job is also important. Encouraging a ‘warm-up’ for workers who have not performed their usual job for a few months by providing workers with functional fitness videos and/or exercise instructions will reduce injury and will also have the benefit of improving overall health.

Healthy Minds

Less tangible than physical health but no less important, the mental wellbeing of employees returning to the workplace is something that employers must consider. People value certainty – if they know what changes to expect and what they should be doing, this will help to ensure that the return to work process is smoother and less stressful.

Communicating to employees about any office changes, practices regarding hygiene and social distancing, and any changes to start times will give your employees the certainty that the business is listening to them and valuing their health and safety.

Providing resources on mental health and dealing with the situation will also provide reassurance. Services like group workshops that can be provided whether everyone is together or in different locations can also continue to foster a sense of ‘team’ and provide reassurance, especially if the return-to-work process is a lengthy one.

Healthy Spaces

Of course, returning to work means returning to the workplace – and that means that making sure the workplace is ready for everyone to return. How many people can catch the lift at one time? Will hand sanitiser be available at entrances? How close to someone else should we be working?
Many employers will need to speak to landlords or facilities management about their plans for the building, especially the shared spaces. And of course, communicating any such changes in the workplace to employees in a timely manner will help transition everyone back to work.

The way forward

Far from being “the end” to the pandemic situation, this is just the beginning of the post-pandemic world – and if done right, returning to the workplace can provide organisations with a great opportunity to review and refresh their health and safety practices.
To help you on the journey, we here at Healthworks and our friends at Bodycare have put together a number of helpful resources for employers to use as part of their return-to-work strategy. Here are just a few:
  • Onsite Temperature checks – these onsite tympanic checks for employees (prior to entering the workplace) are a first line defence assisting employers to meet WHS legal obligations and limiting potential community impact; they are also create confidence amongst your workforce and signal that you are taking the utmost care for employees’ health and safety.
  • Daily Health Check – this online app provides a self-administered check for all employees, screening for potential signs and symptoms of COVID-19; the short questionnaire on their health is simple, straightforward and practical.  View our short video and try it for yourself here.
  • Virtual Wellness Workshops – when half the team is back at work but the other half is not, it can cause a disconnect in team building. These workshops help foster a sense of connection regardless of how distant the participants are. They can also help to discover and address any issues team members may be facing with returning to the workplace.
Check out all of our Return to the Workplace resources here and here, or contact us.

Author Healthworks

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