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Today officially marks ‘Freedom Day’ in Sydney, as we leave lockdown after a mammoth 107 days of staying at home. For a lot of us, this meant working from home for 15 weeks. 15 weeks of Zoom calls, phone calls, and trying our best to run a company remotely. For others it meant putting business on hold, as they were no longer able to work at all. No matter what your work situation was for the past 15 weeks, it is undoubtedly going to feel a little weird returning to work in-person after such a long period of doing things differently. We’ve put together the top tips for preparing your business and staff for lockdown lift and the return to work.

Tip 1. Devise a return-to-work strategy

Return-to-work strategies will look different for each business owner and will depend on multiple factors, including the type of business you run, where your staff operate out of, and how many staff you have. A good place to begin is with the government guidelines, which you can access here. These guidelines outline everything you need to know, from when your business can resume trade again if it was put on pause during lockdown, to when masks are no longer required in the office. These guidelines are constantly changing, so it’s best to check them regularly.

Another great resource is the Safe Work Australia site. This is your go-to for all things related to returning to work safely and ensuring the health and safety of your staff.

A few things to consider when devising your return-to-work strategy are when your staff will return to work, if this return to work will be staggered, and if it is more suitable to allow staff to continue working from home. If you do plan on having all your staff back working together, staggering their return – or having staff come in on alternative days – is a good way to ensure social distancing measures. It’s also a simple way to ensure your employees are not overwhelmed by such a sudden shift to their work life.

Tip 2: Make communication a priority

There will likely be some confusion from your staff about when the return-to-work is happening and how it will all work. Stay in regular communication with your staff via Zoom and phone calls to make your businesses’ return-to-work plan clear. This is also a good time to communicate any guidelines your staff need to be made aware of, such as whether their vaccination status will affect their return to work. During this time, keep communication lines open and listen to any questions or concerns coming from your staff.

Tip 3: Ensure the workplace is COVID safe

Your team may have reservations about returning to work while COVID-19 cases are still present in the community. Thankfully, vaccinations have dramatically decreased risks involved with COVID, and there are measures workplaces can take to keep their staff safe. COVID-19 safe practices in the workplace include maintaining physical distancing, practising good personal hygiene, and ensuring the regular cleaning of common spaces. You may also want to reduce the risk of spreading potential disease by eliminating the use of hot desks and encouraging employees to avoid common spaces in the workplace if they become overly crowded.

Tip 4: Set clear policies around illness

It’s important your staff feel safe when they return to work and have peace of mind that they are returning to a healthy environment. One of the best ways to ensure this is to set clear and consistent policies around illness in the workplace. Health advice is likely to be constantly changing throughout the period that your staff is returning to work, but there are some policies you can introduce from the get-go. A good place to start is making it clear to your employees that they must stay home if they are sick, as well as get tested if they are experiencing COVID-like symptoms. This will ensure their illness does not spread throughout the workplace, keeping both your staff and any customers safe.

Tip 5: Practise patience 

The past 15 weeks have been hard on everyone, and each of your staff members would have certainly faced their individual struggles during the lockdown. Many would have been home schooling while working from home, while others may not have worked for quite a while. Take some time to reconnect with your each of your staff on their return and touch base on how they have been going during lockdown. It’s also a good idea to see if anyone needs any training to refresh, or help getting back into a work routine.

Emily Kennon

Author Emily Kennon

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