Can a small workspace be COVID-secure?

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The past few months have been extremely tough for businesses nationwide, and it’s more important now that you’re doing everything you can to ensure your business is COVID-secure.

We understand you’re keen to return to business as usual but it’s important you’re safe and compliant when it comes to getting up and running again.

Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) account for 50% of the total revenue generated by UK businesses and 44 % of the country’s labour force. But, how do you comply with social distancing guidelines and make sure your workplace is COVID-secure if you have limited space?

To help reassure you that you’ve got the correct Health & Safety measures to protect your people, our experts have gathered some of the key considerations you should make to ensure you’re COVID-secure in a smaller workplace.

Avoiding presenteeism

Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism refers to when an employee is sick but still comes into work. Presenteeism leads to a loss pf productivity, extended ill-health and creates outbreaks of illness in the wider workforce. And the last thing you want is employees who don’t feel as productive because they’re sick but feel like they have to come into work.

However, in the time of COVID-19, if an employee with symptoms comes into the workplace, you risk dramatically increasing the threat of an outbreak within your business, which could have serious consequences for you, your people and your business. This is especially risky if you work in a space that’s small, cramped and where social distancing at the recommended two metres is hard or not possible at all.

Here’s just a few ways you can avoid presenteeism:

  • Monitor symptoms. You might consider monitoring staff temperatures using temperature guns to ensure nobody entering the workplace is running a fever (over 37.8°C). Encourage those who have been experiencing symptoms (fever, continuous cough, loss of sense of smell and/or taste) to stay away from the workplace.
  • Make sure employees know what leave is available to them. Whether it’s sick leave, holidays, or any other leave available to employees, encourage those feeling unwell to use this as opposed to coming in when unwell.
  • Encourage a culture that values Health & Safety and good employee health. If there’s an expectation that people should be working even when they’re under the weather, you increase your risk of outbreaks and employee burnout.
  • Review your sick leave and holiday policies to see if they’re adequate for most cases.

Consider homeworking

Even if your standard contracts don’t typically allow for remote, homeworking, it’s worth considering if you have a workplace that’s short on space and you’re trying to stay COVID-secure and socially distanced. By allowing occasional remote work, an employee who feels a bit under the weather may be able to work from home that day, at least reducing the potential for spreading illness to other employees.

Many businesses have found that, where homeworking has been possible during lockdown, it’s helped them to stay open and operational.

Looking for tips on how to make longer-term homeworking work in your business? Check out our handy checklist for employers.

Staggered shifts

Following lockdown, you’ve probably found it quite difficult to have all your employees under the same roof at the same time, especially if you have a confined space. To avoid the spread of COVID-19, you should consider staggering work shifts so your employees come into contact with each other far less and can maintain safe social distancing.

There are several options you may consider exploring to stagger shifts. Here are a few of them:

  • Changing breaks and lunchtimes to stop staff crowding in one spot like the kitchen or break room.
  • If your business has people working shifts, can you stagger these so only a core number of people are in at any one time? And if people are usually all in work together, can you create earlier start times and later finish times so you can reduce everyone being crowded in the space all at once?
  • Split staff into teams with alternate days working from home and from the workplace, giving them the benefit of seeing their colleagues on some days, while also working from the comfort of their own home on others.
  • Introduce four in five weeks, where staff work the hours, they would in a regular five-day week, but spread over four days, rotated across the team.

The main benefit of staggered work shifts other than the prevention of spreading COVID-19, is that you still have a productive workforce while also considering your employees’ needs.

Reconfigure the workspace

One way to create some additional space in small, cramped or older workspaces is to embark on decluttering. Are you storing anything in your workplace that can be moved elsewhere to make extra space for staff?

Or do you have unwanted or unused furniture you can throw out to that you can better implement social distancing measures in the workplace?

In need of additional support?

Don’t forget, we’re here for you 24/7 through our advice line on 0345 844 4848 if you’ve got any questions relating to Health & Safety, HR and Employment Law.

If you’re an SME and you don’t currently work with Citation, you can find out more about our expertise and experience in assisting businesses during and after the pandemic by visiting our Coronavirus Hub.

And if you’re interested in working with us? Just give our friendly team a call on 0345 844 1111 where we can discuss your needs and get the ball rolling.

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