How to Handle Safe Working as Staff Return to the Office

Restrictions are lifting and that means more staff can return to the office. While you are making your workplace COVID-safe, it is important that your staff also feel safe to return. In fact, new data shows that over 60% of UK employees do not want to return to work until everyone has been vaccinated. In this blog, we outline a few ways that you can handle safe working as staff return to work.


Communication is key to making your staff feel safe at work. Letting them know what you’ve done to make their workplace covid-safe will go a long way to alleviating any fears that some of your staff may have.

Letting staff know there are new procedures for coming into the office, cleaning schedules, and even whether they need to wear a mask when walking around will help your staff feel safe.

While these may feel like common knowledge, having regular communication can help avoid confusion or worse, people taking time off because they feel unsafe.

Consider hybrid working

If you have staff working from home at the moment, it may be that you want to operate a hybrid workplace. This means that some employees carry on working at home some or all of the week. Other members of the team can go into the office.

Social distancing at work is a concern for around 60% of employees.

Hybrid working gives you an opportunity to limit the number of staff in the office and help with desk space.

If you use this approach, make sure you are taking into account the needs of your staff if they have dependents. Equally, you need to make your decisions based on the needs of your company and not anything discriminatory that could leave you open to an employment dispute.

You may find that some staff are happy to continue working from home. However, some team members will feel more productive in the office where they can stop and have an informal chat rather than have a scheduled Zoom or Teams call.

Risk assessment

When you are letting staff return to work, you will need to conduct risk assessments that include COVID-19, if you are not already doing so. Again, letting your staff know that risk assessments are happening, is important to them feeling safe.

Consider including extra hand sanitising stations, reducing hot desks, and providing employees with cleaning products to use at break times and the end of each day.

Consider flexible work requests

If you’ve employed someone for 26 weeks then they have a legal right to request flexible working. You do not have to grant this request. However, if your staff member has been working from home during the past year, it is well worth considering it.

It can mean that you get to retain talent, reduce the risk of sick days and make your staff feel safe doing their job. Not every flexible working request will be a result of COVID-19 and the return to work. But if your business has adapted over the past year, it’s worth looking at how you can accommodate these requests.

Update your employee handbook

As your staff do return to work, it’s also time to get out the employee handbook and make sure it is updated with all your latest COVID-19 guidance. You will want to include what happens if there is an outbreak and what you are doing to keep staff safe.

Then make sure your staff are aware of the changes.

Handle safe working as your staff return

Overall, making your staff feel safe at work comes down to listening to their concerns and communicating what you’re doing about it. Some employees will be ready and eager to return. Others may need support transitioning back to the office. Especially if they have been furloughed for a significant period of time. And it is always important to recognise if some staff simply do not feel ready to return yet.

Returning to work in a considered way will take some stress and worry from your staff members who are concerned, which in turn will reduce the risk of absences.

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