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8/24/2020 10:18:20 AM

10 questions to ask your employer post-COVID

Since coronavirus hit the headlines at the beginning of the year, we’ve all had to evaluate many elements of our day-to-day lives. Everything, from how we interact with our nearest and dearest to the ways in which we shop, have come under the spotlight in the wake of the pandemic. Our personal lives look a lot different from the start of 2020 and the same can be said of our workplaces too. As the UK emerges from national lockdown, employers up and down the country have been scrambling to make workplaces COVID secure for both staff and customers.

Personal habits, daily routines and intrinsic values have shifted almost beyond recognition and now many of us are in a position where we have to consider how we move forward under the 'new normal'. If you're one of the thousands being drafted back into the workplace this summer, we understand that you will have concerns, possibly fears.

Sitting down and sharing these concerns with your employer is a beneficial exercise for all involved; it will establish your expectations for your wellbeing and their vision for your continued safe contribution to the business. By having a list of questions prepared, you’ll have a much more productive meeting and hopefully you’ll come away feeling reassured, motivated and ready to get back to work. 

We've put together a list of ten questions you might like to think about or ask your employer as you return to work. It's by no means an exhaustive list and there may be more pertinent issues depending on your particular sector but it's a great way to kickstart your thought process for returning to work in a COVID secure workplace. 

1. Have the strategic priorities of the organisation changed due to COVID-19? If so, how do you foresee my role supporting these goals?

It’s become necessary for many business models to adapt to the new normal and this requires galvanising the workforce so that the business can continue to function and thrive. However, it’s also important that you feel reassured that the business is innovating to secure a strong and safe position in your industry to future-proof the business.

2. Can I still bring lunch?

Its not a silly question! It may sound daft but you’ll need to know in advance if you will need to make alternative lunch arrangements if you usually use an office fridge or microwave, as use of these may not be permitted for the foreseeable future.

3. What support can I expect to receive going forward when working remotely or from home?

The UK economy has experienced a permanent shift to more remote working and if this hasn't been part of your work culture previously but may impact you now, you’ll need to know what support will be provided; be it equipment, training or wellbeing programmes.

4. Will we need to physically redesign our work environments to facilitate social distancing? How will we tackle this in shared working environments or co-working spaces?

Particularly if you work in an open-plan office, you’re likely to all need to move around a bit. Consider what you need access to, e.g. the printer, stationary, marketing assets, and what you will need to equip your workspace with in order to allow social distancing to take place safely.  

5. How do you plan to support the development of employees to ensure they are able to work flexibly in the future? 

In March, the world changed and continued to change so rapidly that many of us just had to assume the 'swan position' and go with it (serene on the surface, paddling like mad under the water). To keep paddling, we should be as adaptable and agile as possible; this might involve finding out what CPD (continued professional development) is available so you can remain a useful and productive member of staff.

6. Should we try to limit face-to-face interactions in the workplace, via increased virtual meetings? 

For a lot of people, this is a no-brainer, but some business owners still place an extremely high value on face-time with prospective clients or vendors. If you are expected to continue to carry out meetings in person, it’s important to establish what measures you should take as you represent the company.

7. How will we take extra measures to ensure the health and safety of employees (and their dependants) who are at higher risk, due to age or underlying health conditions?

You are returning to work because infection rates are down, not because COVID-19 has been eradicated. Your employer has a duty of care to protect you, not just for your sake, but for that of your loved ones and your community. Knowing what measures are being taken may make returning to the office a less daunting experience.

8. What should we do if we discover an infected employee in the workplace?

An employee or visitor with suspected COVID-19 should immediately leave the workplace and self-isolate. Generally, employers should identify any employee who spent more than ten minutes within six feet of the infected person during the two days before symptoms began, and those employees should also leave the workplace, self-isolate and monitor for symptoms until 14 days after their last exposure. You should clarify the official procedure for your workplace.

9. How will we deal with non-compliance by employees?

Employers have a responsibility to put robust policies in place covering all aspects of COVID - including non-compliance. If you have concerns about work colleagues not towing the line - accidentally or otherwise - you need to know who this will be dealt with by. 

10. What is our contingency plan should we experience a second wave or a suspected infection case in one of our own facilities?

No one wants to think about it now but, if reports are to be believed, we're not out of the woods yet and may even experience the dreaded Second Wave this autumn. Rather than the economy grinding to a halt as it did this spring, your employer should be forward planning for a second lockdown. It will be useful to discuss what that might look like for you.


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