Getting back to work - How to thrive in a post-COVID-19 world

Wed 27 May 20

Impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak 

While some companies are obviously still deeply concerned for their survival, others are pivoting their production to look at new markets and exploring other options to 'restart'. 

Businesses are now assessing what that might mean in practice – such as how to operate with social distancing and the implications this has for individuals and output and efficiency. 

While we await guidance on what the UK and Scottish government's plans will involve in terms of relaxing restrictions and incremental change, it is sensible for businesses to prepare now for getting back to work.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, commonly known as the furlough scheme, is due to end on 31 October. However, this comes with the caveat that businesses will be asked to “start sharing” the cost of the scheme from August.

You should therefore be thinking about what that might mean for your company, your workforce and your supply chain.

Getting back to work

You need to plan now for what is likely to be a staged return to the workplace across different industry sectors over what could be a prolonged period.

A guiding principle must be how your business takes care of its people and safeguards their health and wellbeing. Many people will be concerned and anxious about being in workplaces or travelling to workplaces.

They’ll want to know that your organisation is continuing its support for their physical and mental health and is changing its thinking and values behind flexible and remote working.

This should be at the heart of any decisions and plans that your organisation makes.

If you’re an employer, start thinking about the following areas:

  • Communicating clearly with staff about how you will support and manage their return to the workplace
  • Having a fair and transparent process for dealing with redundancies and related issues once the furlough scheme ends
  • Ensuring your policies for managing holidays, sickness and other absences are up to date

Bear in mind that the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the workforce must underpin this.

Building resilience

Planning these first steps will help to build the resilience of your workforce and ensure you are future proofing your business to meet the changing nature of the world of work.

ACAS has resources for employers including:

Workplace innovation and Fair Work practices

Workplace innovation is a truly effective way for your business to enhance its competitive edge, and we can support your business return to work. It’s about creating a culture where staff are fully engaged and supported to reach their potential. Creating a profitable, efficient and responsive business, aligned to Fair Work practices, set out by the Scottish Government. There is perhaps even an opportunity for businesses to consider 'building back better' and making sure that wellbeing and productivity go hand in hand.

Considering the changes brought about by COVID-19, this approach is more important than ever – to ensure optimal conditions for businesses to transition from survival to growth.

Are you already planning your return to work? What will your business look like when you go back to ‘normal’? Right now, you have a chance to make positive changes to your people, practices and ways of working. Our workplace innovation specialists can help you do this.

Planning for change

There are certain principles and measures that every employer will need to consider as we emerge on the other side of this pandemic. Organisations should use this time to prepare and plan their next steps. Consider the five key principles of fair work as part of your return to work planning: employee voice, security, respect, opportunity and fulfilment.

To deepen our engagement with companies around Fair Work practices, we will:

  • Help review working practices to support employee engagement and wellbeing
  • Provide guidance on developing the company culture
  • Identify training needs/solutions for leaders, managers and employees through our partners at Skills Development Scotland
  • Connect you to our networks and contacts to demonstrate Fair Work and innovative practices
  • Encourage companies to develop a workforce plan, talent management and HR strategies

For staff who have been away from their workplaces for weeks or months, returning will feel unsettling. Much may have changed in the lockdown.

Read more and discover the "Return to work planning checklist" at 

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