The entire country has been in a situation of lockdown for a few months now. Now the government is easing the lockdown by publishing new guidelines and gradually things are getting back to normal. But don’t mistake this normal for the normal we are used to, this is a new normal for all. The future of work after lockdown will be completely different.
Apart from conforming to the work guidelines and reopening the organisation, there will be many more challenges to face. One of them being, safety and well being of the employees as they return to work after lockdown. Employers should really be able to address the grievances, make necessary arrangements and manage the risks related to operating in the organisation.
Below are 10 questions that employers need to be thinking about before returning to work after lockdown:
1. How are employers going to manage social distancing at the workplace?
Along with following government issued guidelines for social distancing, employers should also keep record of employees who are working from home or have been laid off. By calling them back on a phased basis, employers can implement social distancing much more efficiently.
Social distancing might be a fairly tricky concept to implement for some employers. Any employer must make sure they take into consideration the following points:
- Proper seating arrangements
- Be aware of the flow of employees in the workplace
- Limit staff member from gathering in areas (like bathrooms, canteen etc.) at any one time
- Make a strict visitor’s policy.
- Assign even lunch hours
2. Will all the employees come back to office work after lockdown?
It is a problem that every employer must be prepared to handle. It is very likely that all employees are not going to come immediately to office work after lockdown. For example, a large company need not to worry about bringing its employees all at once because there will be few employees whose position does not require them to come to the workplace but they still can work from home after lockdown.
That is the reason why employers need to assess the roles of their respective workforces, to figure out whom to call as and when needed.
3. What are the reasons that some employees are not willing to return to work after lockdown?
We have seen flexibility on the part of employers as they cope up with difficult conditions. There are many reasons why staff is not willing to work like looking after their kids or vulnerable close ones. It is a challenge for various employers to bring the staff back to the workplace, to eliminate unnecessary costs.
While we come out of lock down, employers are forced to come up with different ways of working like Working from Home after lockdown or change in working hours to ensure health and safety of the employees.
4. Is there a special arrangement for the more vulnerable group like senior employees?
The Vulnerable group of employees like senior employees or employees already suffering from other conditions should be assured that all the right steps have already been taken under government’s guidelines. However, there should be an open communication with them so any of their concerns may be resolved.
It is recommended that vulnerable staff should be made to work from home. If they insist on coming for office work after lockdown, then make some special arrangements that ensure a healthy and safe work environment for them.
5. How to handle staff that is not willing to return to work after lockdown?
Two way communication between employer and workforce is a key. Employers must take out time to address problems of their employees to find out if there are any certain risks that an employee may be worried about, which is stopping him from returning to work after lockdown.
Employers should also communicate to their workforce that they are conforming to work guidelines after lockdown to safeguard the staff’s health and safety in the workplace.
6. How have employers planned to deal with rising work from home requests?
There is a high probability that there will be a pile of work-from-home applications when the offices re-open. Staff by now must have found their way to working from home after lockdown. Employers should have flexible working hours policy and follow it when dealing with their workforce.
As employees have successfully worked from home for some time now, it will be tough for employers to come up with a reason to reject the application. Employers should consider all the aspects while accepting the work from home application.
7. How can employers tackle the problem of reduction in workload?
Employers must take the financial position of their organisation into consideration as the staff returns to work after lockdown. Already employers must have prepared for their finances right from the start of this pandemic, in a way to eliminate redundancy.
If the amount of work has reduced in the current time, then employers might consider changing employees’ terms and conditions (like: reduction in pay or work hours ). In such cases, employers should consult the employees and check for any redundancies. If redundancy appears then changing the terms and conditions of employees might be the right choice.
8. How employers should address resentment from employees?
The lockdown happened so quickly that the employers had to make some tough and firm decisions. Due to which the staff may feel that it is not fair to them and might not be happy with how the situation was handled. As per which employers may get a large number of grievances as the staff returns to work after lockdown.
For instance, few employees may disapprove of continuing work for normal hours, where their subordinates have been laid off and working from home. This could be a necessary call to make by the employer on his own judgement.
9. What are some health and safety measures that should be implemented?
Just before deciding to open the offices, employers should make an assessment of all possible risks and the future of work after lockdown. After the risk assessment, employers should make sure the ‘implementation of work guidelines after lockdown’. Some of the health and safety measures for work environment are:
- Ensuring social distancing norms to be followed in areas (like lifts, bathrooms, canteen etc).
- Limit the person-to-person contact in the workplace as much as possible
- Make sure that offices are cleaned on a regular basis, using sanitising equipment and including extra sanitising facilities for the workforce.
- Any other necessary protective measure to be included
10. How flexible working hours are going to be implemented?
Employers might notice some positives coming out of flexible working hours where the staff has increased productivity , there will also be cost reduction as the office space is no longer required. Employees will also have a better work-life balance and are allowed to spend more with their parents or take good care of their kids.
In conclusion, there are plenty of factors : numbers of employees, staff with other health conditions, size of the organisation etc which allow you to either call employees to the office or continue them working from home after lockdown. An employer must prepare himself to be able to answer these questions as the staff returns to work after lockdown.