For the past few months, the whole world has come to a standstill as each of us has had to battle our way through the Covid-19 pandemic.
And as we start to come out the other side, the relief and longing for everything to return to normal is outweighed by a shared caution. A hesitancy felt by everyone – especially businesses – where safety, clear communication and right the controls need to be made paramount in our return.
On one side, the economy has endured hard hits from all sides and the need to regain sustainable investment is greater than ever.
But on the other side, we need to approach each coming together tentatively, with new frameworks in place to cover different scenarios.
Throughout the whole pandemic, there has been one word repeated over and over – ‘unprecedented’. The crisis has affected us in a very unique way and there really is no other word for it – now and going forwards.
There is no fallback, no plan B – no familiar path to follow.
And as we start to head back to work, we are each developing our own tactics while following guidance from the Government and trusted sources.
So, what are the considerations for businesses looking to get back to the workplace?
The return to work roadmap
Firstly, not everyone is looking to head back straight away – if at all.
Companies such as Twitter have announced permanent working from home opportunities for its staff. And there are many more who will do the same.
For many, the effort and investment it took to enable entire workforces to be able to operate from home was significant. And with everything finally in place, there’s an understandable reluctance to re-disrupt working conditions.
Afterall, there are so many technologies available now for enabling this exact type of framework where staff can stay connected and collaborate while working from home.
However, there are many businesses who simply cannot operate in such a way and also, many businesses who simply thrive on being together.
Moreover, parents have been dealt the extremely difficult – some would say impossible – task of caring for their children on a fulltime basis while continuing to work. And although the lack of commute and extra time with each other has been welcomed, it’s simply not sustainable.
At the beginning of May, the Irish Government set out its roadmap for the gradual loosening of restrictions across the next few months.
We’re currently in Phase 2 with a few policies from Phase 3 brought forward slightly early before the planned implementation date (currently set as 29th June).
The general consensus is that we’re still very much in the planning stage as offices are starting to consider their own roadmaps while continuing to work from home.
And this may well continue for the next couple of months as businesses who can work from home have been advised to carry on doing so.
However, the return to work is still on the agenda for many and because of this, we need to start thinking about how we can do this safely.
What are the Government Protocols?
The Government Protocol for returning to work has been laid out and businesses are now looking at how they can follow the necessary guidelines in order to keep their workers safe.
Within the document, specific measures and recommendations have been outlined as well as some mandatory requirements which businesses will also need to comply with.
Some of these include:
- Implementing a company Covid-19 response plan.
- Keeping a log so that relevant contacts can be alerted straight away.
- Updating health and safety policies.
- Identifying the actions needed to be taken should a positive case be identified.
It is also recommended that staff maintain physical distancing as much as possible and that visitors are screened before they enter your place of work.
And of course, that any further updates and guidelines from the relevant, trusted bodies are also adhered to.
Where are the biggest sticking points?
One of the biggest shared challenges businesses are experiencing in facilitating the return to work is being able to tackle the sheer amount of organisation and administration involved.
Dedicated teams are being set up and decisions need to be made without much information to go on.
It is very much a learn-as-we-go process while sticking to guidelines and best practices as advised.
But there will still be many people out there at the moment, trying to pull what information they can and organise it in terms of risk factors and priorities, and also look at what they need to do in order to comply with the Government Protocols.
And the bigger the company, the bigger the administrative headache in terms of actually attaining compliance as well as a safe work environment for their employees.
Preparing your business for the return to work
Ultimately, contact tracing is one of the biggest prerequisites and is going to be a challenge to implement without the necessary technologies.
And in addition, being able to send alerts to the right people (which in itself, demands any data to be fully up to date) quickly, and containing any potential spread, also presents itself as a real challenge.
Finally, being able to screen guests and ensure any external contacts coming into your workplace are safe to do so, also needs to be addressed.
The one thing that has been key in Ireland’s – as well as many countries’ – response to Covid-19 has been clear communication.
It would have been impossible to react, get the appropriate guidance and simply unite together without being able to access the necessary information from the Government, WHO, HSE and other trusted bodies.
Whatever plans, processes and policies different businesses put in place, they will all need to be communicated clearly. Moreover, while staff are working remotely and continue to do so perhaps on a part-time basis for the foreseeable future, the ability to reach staff wherever they may be as well as provide them with the correct information at any given time, is vital.
Tools for empowering a safer workplace
Evros has built a range of bespoke technologies for helping you create a safer workplace for your staff as well as comply with the Government Protocols, data protection and GDPR.
Simply put, these are Apps that are all powered by Office 365 and can be deployed quickly and easily to your business.
Using our Apps, you’ll be able to:
- Perform contact tracing using Safe Trace
- Send alerts to staff via their mobile device
- Keep workspaces sanitised
- Maintain social distancing
- React in an emergency
- Screen visitors
- Enable effective remote working
As well as many more functionalities relevant to your business going forward.