Stepping back into the unknown
Kelly Games discusses some things to consider as practices start to reopen and recall the dental team back to the practice.
It’s your place of work and yet you have no idea what you’re stepping back into. Everything is changing. Nobody knows yet how things will look but, as an employer, you’ll have to overcome a few hurdles. Being aware of what you may come up against is a good starting point for the preparation of your practice.
Patients will continue to feel anxious and will seek reassurance that the practice experience is safe; as will your staff. So, how do you prepare your team members for their return to work? Every employer will have different fundamental concerns. Although you will need to tailor each specific workplace we’ll consider a few of the main HR topics in this article.
Health and safety
Employers have an obligation to protect the health and safety of their employees. As well as the guidance on social distancing – which in itself can be challenging in a workplace. There will be new protective equipment and workwear provisions in place. You will need to carry out a risk assessment and implement new measures to protect the wellbeing of your team. This may include rearranging workstations or minimising the amount of staff in the practice at any one time. You could also look at temporarily placing floor markings down to indicate safe distancing for both employees and patients. Ensure there is plenty of handwash, hand sanitiser and increase deep cleaning protocols for the practice. Particularly door handles, taps and light switches that may be commonly missed.
As well as general health and safety, mental health is also something you should continue to consider. You may come up against employees that are feeling anxious about returning to the practice. It’s key at this stage to communicate and reassure your team members that their health and safety is your priority. What would be beneficial to the practice, is including the team with implementation of measures. And for them to take ownership of different areas.
All employers should prepare for an increase in the number of requests to work from home. Undoubtedly, the shift to home working since lockdown will result in employees considering their options. But employers will require faith that their team can successfully carry out their work from home.
Employees with at least 26 weeks of continuous service can make a flexible working request. It is important that you properly consider these requests. Employees should carry out a thorough analysis as to whether it would suit both the business and the employee. Employers need to consider the risks, if a request is rejected. An employee could allege that they are being discriminated against under the Equality Act 2010. It’s a recommendation to follow the timelines and particular statutory reasons you can provide should you refuse a formal flexible working request.
Engagement and communications
I can’t stress enough how important and effective communication is for building trust and commitment among employees and management. The more honest and transparent you are about the developments of returning to the practice – what plans you may have, and whether the team has any ideas to contribute – the more positive a response you will receive and an efficient return of your employees. With the introduction of new practical measures, it’s vital to keep your team up to date with any new developments and legislation and explain how this will affect the workplace.
Some of your team may confide in you about their concerns. And some of your employees may not want to return to the workplace yet, neither may their home situation allow them. With this in mind, this may help in your selection of returning some staff members to work before others to minimise the risk in the practice.
Furthermore, ensure you continue to review how the practice is operating and whether this works for the business as well as employees and patients. Keep your team involved in this process. They are just as familiar with the premises as you are. This will demonstrate your commitment to creating a safe and healthy working environment.
Even though so much has already changed and it’s hard to keep up with the influx of new regulations and guidelines, it’s important to keep abreast of developments as and when they occur and remain adaptable. For a long period after this, businesses will need to be savvy and adapt to the ‘new normal’. It’s important to remain flexible in your business planning to accommodate different circumstances as they crop up. A lot of practices are looking into business solutions such as the use of technology to avoid face-to-face contact. It’s important that all employers do not try to return to ‘business as usual’ without taking on what they’ve learnt from this unforeseen global pandemic. Especially if there is to be a second lockdown.
Here is an opportunity to think about a better workplace for your team members, offering greater flexibility and choice while working towards much more ambitious, rewarding and sustainable goals.
We can help
At times like this the right choices can make all the difference. At Code, our compliance and HR teams are helping thousands of practices across the country to manage the current challenges and prepare for the next few difficult months. We can help you get your practice back on track. Using our HR and compliance solutions, our members can spend the time they need on managing all other aspects of their business.