PM Tightens Restrictions and Re-Prioritises Working From Home
In an address to MPs today, Boris Johnson has tightened COVID-19 restrictions in England, calling on people to work from home where possible and pausing plans for...Read Full Article
Boris’ new rule of six doesn’t apply to workplaces, but how might the tightening of lockdown measures affect general confidence when returning to buildings?
Following the news that COVID-19 cases are now rising at a rate of almost 3,000 a day in the UK, social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Monday 14 September, although workplaces are schools are currently exempt from the change.
Despite there being no change to workplace rules, this news may present additional challenges for employers.
This is the first tightening of lockdown measures after several months of rule-relaxation, and there may be consequences for employee wellbeing. Facilities, workplace and HR managers also have the additional responsibility of encouraging their staff to abide by the rules outside of their work lives.
The announcement led to the hashtag #Lockdown2 trending on Twitter, and many took to the social platform questioning the logic of this coming into force whilst the government actively encourages the return to work and public spaces.
Angela Love, Director at Active Workplace Solutions, a company which specialises in workplace change, foresees potential issues where employers have to manage disgruntled employees who can meet groups of work colleagues but are restricted with their friends and family.
“How can I tell my people it is safe to come to work when the government says it isn’t safe to mix with their family and friends? It makes no sense to me and certainly won’t to them.”
Director, Active Workplace Solutions
She told us: “How can I tell my people it is safe to come to work when the government says it isn’t safe to mix with their family and friends? It makes no sense to me and certainly won’t to them.”
“I believe this will have a huge negative impact that will set the UK back months. It’s a step backwards, and will only add fuel to an already emotive topic, providing the vocal doubters with exactly what they need to keep people away from the office. Our towns and cities are at risk of never recovering, and our people are being hung out to dry.”
Peter Forshaw, Managing Director of specialist FM recruiter Maxwell Stephens, told us that those who were already feeling reticent about reentering the workplace might be negatively impacted by the new law:
“Personally I feel that the majority of people are ready to crack on and get back to the office, however those who are more vulnerable or those apprehensive about a return to work are likely to negatively affected by the news; both in regards to their motivation in returning to the workplace, and more worryingly the potential negative effect to their general mental health and levels of anxiety."
Picture: A photograph of Peter Forshaw
From a leadership point of view, Forshaw is optimistic that workplace managers will be able to manage any frustration caused by the new lockdown rules:
“One thing that’s clear is that leaders need to be adaptable in the current climate, particularly in regards to how they manage their workforce; however, in this case, I feel that most employees will recognise that management are in exactly the same boat as them.
“From my perspective, a major positive to come out of the pandemic is the strengthened sense of community and the attitude that ‘we’re all in this together’. Of course, this news may cause frustration with many people which I can completely empathise with, yet I don’t think this will be (or should be) frustration that is taken out on leadership.
“Having said that it’s important that leaders try their best ensure this frustration doesn’t impact on motivation and morale within the workplace.”
"This behaviour isn't happening in restaurants or in the workplace, it's happening in informal settings. The government policy hasn't been clear enough so far, so the rule of six will help bring some clarity."
–Luis De Souza
CEO, NFS Technology Group
Luis De Souza, CEO at NFS Technology Group, feels that the change in law is necessary and that employers must be clear with their expectations:
“We've seen a significant amount of relaxed behaviour on the part of the public recently. This behaviour isn't happening in restaurants or in the workplace, it's happening in informal settings. The government policy hasn't been clear enough so far, so the rule of six will help bring some clarity.
"At NFS, we've taken a number of measures to make sure it's absolutely clear what we expect from our employees in terms of social distancing. Our office is currently running at a limited capacity of 30 per cent, and if employees feel they may have been exposed to COVID-19, they are expected to isolate for at least seven days.
"As a team, at the half-day point, everyone is encouraged to help clean down common touchpoints. We have a high level of compliance with these measures because we have made our guidelines very clear and remind people regularly of the expectations"
Picture: A graphic showing four people standing 2 metres apart from each other
Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 10 September 2020
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