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COVID-19 and Returning to the Workplace – How Do We Plan for a Return?

Following on from last week’s post (read it here) where we looked at what the rules are for a return to the workplace in England, Wales and Scotland. This week we will be looking at what practical steps you now must take to get your employees back to the office safely.

Review Your COVID-19 Risk Assessment

Now is the time to review your COVID-19 risk assessment.

Your risk assessment must identify all of the COVID-19-related hazards within your workplace and must record all of the precautionary measures that you have put in place.  Remember, hazards and controls are not just those directly relating the spread of the virus.  You must also consider the indirect effects of the virus – for example, ensuring that all regular workplace tasks can be completed in a safe manner with a reduced number of employees in the workplace.

Make sure that you’re reviewing your COVID-19 risk assessment at least every 3 weeks, in line with government guidance.

Why not download our free Armour Risk Consulting ‘Return to Work Checklist’ here –


Communicate With Your Employees

Communication with all of your employees is key during the ‘return to work’ process.

Have you clearly communicated your ‘return to work’ plan with your employees?

Here are some of the things you should be providing information to your employees on –

  • What is the return-to-work date?
  • Who is to return to work, and when? Is there a staggered return?
  • Have core working hours changed at all?
  • Have workstations and locations been revised? Do your employees know where to go when they return?
  • Have there been any changes to the way in which tasks are undertaken?
  • What are the welfare arrangements? How many people can use toilets or kitchen areas? Will food still be provided on-site?

Businesses should create a clear plan and share this with all employees, along with your COVID-19 risk assessment.

It is also important to allow employees to provide feedback and input into the plan where possible. This way, employees can feel involved and engaged in the process, which can help alleviate any anxiety relating to a return to work.

A ‘Return to Work’ Open Day is a useful activity, inviting employees back to the workplace for a couple of hours to get used to any new layouts or working practices, and to reconnect with their colleagues.

Ensure All Equipment and Systems Are Working Correctly

Most workplaces have equipment that requires regular servicing.

It is important the regulatory inspections of equipment e.g. lifts should happen before returning to the workplace. Gas systems need an annual service and gas safety checks to ensure the system is safe for use.

As we mentioned in our last post, ventilation is an important precautionary measure.  If your place of business has a ventilation system, you should get this serviced before your employees return.

Legionella sampling should be completed due to the long periods of inactivity over the past 18 months.  If you have cold water storage tank, a clean and disinfection would be advisable, make sure that you are regularly flushing your taps and outlets.

In terms of fire safety, the fire alarm should be serviced alongside the emergency lighting to ensure both systems are functioning correctly. Fire extinguishers should be checked regularly and serviced on an annual basis.

There are currently high demands for competent contractors to perform these maintenance and servicing activities, as most organisations return to their workplace – make sure you are using a competent contract and don’t be tempted to skip any of these servicing and maintenance visits.

Make Sure the Workplace is Clean

The past 18 months have seen a huge focus on cleanliness and good hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus.

Most buildings or businesses you enter now have hand sanitiser on offer, and you should make sure your workplace has sufficient and convenient supplies of hand sanitiser available to all staff.

A deep clean of your premises before your employees return will ensure that the workplace is ready for re-occupation. To continue a high standard of cleanliness, enhanced cleaning of areas of high usage and regular touch points throughout the workplace should be planned for.

The provision of cleaning stations, containing antibacterial wipes, antibacterial spray, paper towels and hand sanitiser is a great idea. This will give freedom to employees to clean their workstations regularly.

Shared crockery and food supplies are a part of workplace – good hygiene standards should be promoted in all kitchen and break-out areas. Remind employees to wash their own dishes and only use their own food supplies. If you are a business that provides food supplies to employees like coffee, single serving or individually wrapped items are a great way to prevent potential spread of the virus.

Are Emergency Plans Up to Date and Employees Appropriately Trained?

Are your current emergency plans and procedures still viable and reflect your current working procedures?  Do you now have enough fire wardens or first aid personnel in the workplace in the event of an emergency?  You may need to source additional support or assign and train new wardens and first aiders.

We recommend refresher training and performing a fire and emergency drill as soon as possible after a return to the workplace to ensure that employees are appropriately trained, and procedures are still working.

Also, with employees returning to their workstations after 18 months working from home, make sure that they complete a Display Screen Equipment assessment that reflects their new workstation, and ensure you are acting on any of the findings from these assessments as soon as possible.

The return to the workplace will be a different experience for each employer and for each employee.  Some businesses will have continued to operate as usual throughout the pandemic, whereas for others, this may be the first time employees are welcomed back to the workplace.

Employers should ensure that they are making preparations and addressing the concerns of all employees – it’s best to prepare for those that are most concerned about a return to the workplace, rather than those that are most relaxed.

Why not download our free Armour Risk Consulting ‘Return to Work Checklist’ here –

Do you need any help in writing or reviewing your COVID-19 risk assessment?  Please contact Armour Risk Consulting for a free consultation at or on 0131 516 1767.

Our content is correct at the date of publishing, but should not be taken as legal advice, and our articles don’t replace Risk Assessments. Armour will not be held accountable for any legal actions the reader may take.