CEO update: Returning to business as usual?
As lockdown lifts, workplaces across the UK are wondering how to adapt to the “new normal”.
For us at Connect Assist, we have up to 300 people securely home working, plus 70 staff working across our sites.
However, we know that working in isolation isn’t for everybody. If it’s not your preferred way of working, then it does impact your mental wellbeing.
So we have now put safety measures in place to allow home-working staff to return to the office when they feel ready.
I’d like to share what our plans to ensure a safe and happy return to office working look like in practice.
At Connect Assist, our focus is on optimising the well-being of our staff, not on optimising floor space. So we have reconfigured our buildings to allow for distanced working and break times.
That has meant dismantling and storing furniture to create more space, and implementing one-way flows.
We’ve stopped hot-desking, which is the norm for contact centres, and have instead allocated desks and labelled them with staff names. So staff know their own space is clean and nobody else sits there while they’re off work.
During lockdown, we were taking the temperatures of office staff with a digital thermometer every day, but now we have given everyone thermometer strips so they can check themselves.
We’re confident in the measures we’ve put in place, and think our internal environment is safer than a supermarket, for example. Therefore, we don’t insist on masks.
Our main priority now is helping people understand it’s ok to return to work if they choose to do so.
We have videoed the inside of our buildings because they look completely different from when many staff were last here. Colleagues can take a virtual walk through, and see the measures we’ve put in place.
We’ve also set up areas where teams can come and work together, and invited them in for taster days. That’s gone down really well – it’s great to interact in person, and have a chat with the team during the working day.
Staff are also allowed to come into the office for a walk around in the evening or at the weekend when it’s a bit quieter. They’re welcome to bring their partners too, so everyone feels reassured.
Some staff are now asking to come back to the office permanently, but we want to make sure that those who are nervous do not feel under any pressure. We are encouraging our staff back, not ordering them.
The mental wellbeing of our staff has always been very important to us.
For those who have found this crisis particularly distressing, we offer daily slots for individual counselling where they learn coping mechanisms to help them through.
These sessions have been used by a number of staff, both to help them work in isolation, and to smooth their return to the office environment.
I’m proud that Connect Assist has always been ahead of the curve on Covid-19: we started planning before the virus had made it to Europe, sent staff home before lockdown was announced, and reconfigured our building before other firms had even begun to think about it.
We fear that the next stage will be what we call ‘Covid complacency’. The pandemic is slipping down the news agendas, and some people are forgetting social distancing when they’re out and about. We’re already starting to see cases crescendo once more, as in Leicester.
So we’ve launched a new campaign warning staff that the pandemic is not over. We’ve sent it out to everyone, and made posters for the office reminding people how to keep themselves and colleagues safe.
Perhaps the Government should adopt our campaign – we’d be happy to lend them our posters!
These have been, and still are, extraordinary times. I’m proud of the way our staff have kept up our vital work in difficult circumstances, and I look forward to welcoming them back to the office when they feel ready to return.