Turning Britain back on safely: Four key factors to consider
Boris’s recent speech had us all scratching our heads. Matt Lucas put it best with his hilarious spoof. Go to work, don’t go to work. You can leave the house, but you can’t leave the house. Go to work but don’t use public transport. It’s a pretty big U-turn after the last couple of months.
It’s frustrating because we want to get back in action. With a quarter of UK business temporarily closed and 1 in 4 people furloughed, there’s a shared mood amongst entrepreneurs: let’s get Britain back on its feet and get the economy moving in the right direction. But it’s always easier to turn off than turn back on. And that’s the problem we’re facing.
There are a lot of issues that will get in your way when you reopen your business. Here are four key factors to consider when taking those first steps to make the transition easier.
Health and safety
Before we even begin to think about the economics of getting back to work, we need to look at health and safety. Not just preventing the coronavirus from spreading even further, but the problems you might not think about after leaving your office empty for months.
For example, Legionella can be found in stagnant water that’s been sitting around, so you’ll need to sterilise the pipes. The ventilation system and air filters might still be contaminated, so they’ll need a clean. Switching the power back on without thinking about it could accidentally lead to a spike in cases. Put a deep clean at the top of your priority list before anyone even sets foot in your office. You can never be too clean, after all.
Most workplaces have a gossip corner: that water cooler spot where they get together and share what they’ve been up to. But with the new social distancing rules, how are you going to get rid of these social gatherings?
The last decade has also seen a rise in the trendy open-plan office layout. They might be perfect for working together in close quarters, but they’re now terrible for a global pandemic. Consider closing down non-essential spaces where you can, keeping it to only one person per desk cluster, and maybe even staggering start times.
When do you bring staff back?
With fewer clients, you probably have a smaller team. But it’s now a Catch-22 situation: without bringing your staff back, how are you supposed to turn your services back on and win more business? But without the income and the clients, how are you supposed to afford your staff without furlough support?
It can hurt cash flow; 29% of businesses are at reduced working hours which will be affecting their profits. But what’s important is you never put profits above your clients. Approach them first and see if you can pick up business again. Then ask yourself if you can handle this work with your skeleton crew or if you need to add another person. Take the process slowly and safely while supporting your furloughed staff throughout. It pays to take a cautious approach in this situation.
Blending the best of both worlds
It’s up to you to weigh up your options and think about what you’ve learnt from the last few months. With the extension of furlough bankrolling of wages until the end of October, there’s no pressure to make costly decisions. There’s even the opportunity from August to support part-time back-to-work schemes.
Another option is to assess what you can outsource. To ease the pressure on you and keep your staff safe, you can make use of other service providers to fill in the gaps in your team, say, in your customer service department. You’ll find it’s a more flexible option that gives you the breathing room to pick back up at your own pace.
Turning Britain back on isn’t going to happen without some challenges. There’s enough to worry about in business without the added health and safety stress. But take a breath, take your time, and assess every option open to you. With one step at a time, you can get back to your usual business before you know it.
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