How will the workplace look after the lockdown?

With talk of ending the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown gathering pace, what will the workplace look like in a post-pandemic world? Kate Palmer, Associate Director of Advisory at Peninsula, looks at social distancing and the possibility of more homeworking employees.

Workplace After Lockdown

What do employers need to consider when lockdown restrictions are lifted?

It may seem a long time away but eventually the coronavirus pandemic will come to an end and, when it does, companies will need to have plans in place to help staff get back to normal. As we try and return to normality, and potentially see lockdown restrictions softened, there are things employers will need to consider, incluing:

  • homeworking employees
  • social distancing in the workplace
  • furloughed staff returning to work

Should employers encourage more homeworking?

For many employers, putting homeworking options into place may have been an entirely new venture that they had not previously considered before the pandemic. While the initial reaction to the restrictions being lifted may be to return all staff to previous working arrangements, some companies and their employees may have been satisfied with the working from home situation and could wish to make it permanent.

Homeworking can be a useful in many ways. It can:

  • help staff to manage outside commitments, such as childcare, the outbreak may have intensified that. For example, if the UK lockdown eases, but the schools remain shut, staff may struggle to facilitate childcare.
  • help encourage the loyalty and retention of staff. If such an option isn’t possible, it may instead be advisable to explore other forms of flexible working, such as part-time home working or a change in hours.
  • solve space problems if social distancing continues to be implemented. Allowing remote home working to continue for some members of staff may offer a solution as it will mean fewer bodies are coming into work.

Ultimately, it is up to employers if they permit staff to work from home. Still, they should consider the benefits of doing so, and the positives of being more flexible with employees in general.

What happens to furloughed staff?

Some of the staff returning to work will have been furloughed, meaning they could potentially have been away from their job for a prolonged period. Therefore, it will be important to consider if they will need any training on new or updated aspects of their job, or simply as a reminder as they will not have done it in a while.

It is also crucial that employers are prepared to be patient with their staff; it may take them a few days to get back to previous levels of productivity. Constant communication should be kept open with a workforce to keep them updated on the company’s current situation and invite them to bring forward any concerns they may have.

The coronavirus situation has been difficult for everyone and may have impacted some members of staff more than others. Employers should, therefore, clearly signpost any counselling services it may offer, such as an employee assistance programme, that could provide further support and aid to employees. Managers should also maintain an open-door policy to encourage anyone struggling with their mental health to ask for help.

About the author

Kate Palmer is Associate Director of Advisory at global employment law consultancy at Peninsula.

See also

Working from home: how to protect your employees

How essential workers can book Coronavirus (COVID-19) tests

What you need to know about Emergency Volunteer Leave

What does it mean to be furloughed?

Find out more

List of essential workers and those prioritised for testing (England only) (GOV.UK)

COVID-19: guidance for employees (GOV.UK)

Image: Getty Images

Publication date: 28 April 2020

Any opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and the author alone, and does not necessarily represent that of The Gazette.