Virgin Pulse: How to reopen your workplace safely

A woman wears a face mask while in her office
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Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
8 July 2020

As people start to return to work after the COVID-19 lockdown, many will be concerned about their health and safety. Dr David Batman, a member of Virgin Pulse’s Science Advisory Board and a specialist consultant in occupational medicine and workplace safety, has offered some advice to employers on how to safely reopen workplaces.

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“Employers have a responsibility to protect workers,” Dr Batman said. “It is vital that they communicate with workers and their health and safety representative on workplace measures to address COVID-19.”

Businesses should come up with a plan that covers everything from reviewing existing policies to introducing new ones that will help prevent the spread of the disease. Dr Batman recommends that all employees should receive training on health and safety policies relating to COVID-19, including the use of PPE and any necessary changes that they will need to make.

Some measures that employers might think about implementing include:

  • Remove hot-desking – employees should have a designated workspace with appropriate distancing from others

  • Provide disinfectant wipes and encourage employees to wipe down their desks when leaving the office

  • Avoid meetings in close proximity, instead hold a walking meeting or if possible meet outside and follow social distancing guidelines.

  • Avoid business travel where possible – explore alternative options

  • Implement a procedure for informing employees if they have been in contact with a person with COVID-19

A woman wearing a mask at her desk
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Mental health

“Employees will be returning to the workplace with depleted mental health due to increased demands at home while caring for children or loved ones, concerns about finances and job security, changing workload and work location, the impact of being furloughed, bereavement and anxiety related to the fear of COVID-19 itself, and these things will impact our mental wellbeing for some time to come,” Dr Batman said.

Employers need to make sure they’re looking after employees’ mental health, as well as their physical health, as they return to the workplace.

At-risk employees

The most important thing that employers can do for anyone who is at risk of serious health problems related to COVID-19 is to make sure they stay at home.

Dr Batman says: “ Recognise that they can positively continue to contribute to the business by working safely from home and remind them to not feel guilty. As isolation now becomes a potential longer-term issue, remote employees should be actively involved in all team and business communications, along with regular 1:1 virtual check-ins with their direct manager. Encourage them to manage their preexisting medical conditions, making appointments with their doctors, and getting their medication supplies as needed.”

Virgin Pulse launched the coronavirus toolkit for employee wellbeing to help people cope during the lockdown.

Visit Virgin Pulse to find out more.