The back-to-the-office guide for HR

back to the office
By Anthony Wolny | 12th April 2021 | 4 min read

On 23 March 2020, Boris Johnson addressed the nation, saying: “From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home.”

Now over a year later, the repercussions from that announcement are still clearly felt today, with the working landscape changed forever.

As a UK roadmap outlines the reopening of workplaces following a third country-wide lockdown – businesses need to start preparing for those employees returning to a physical office.

Many of the concerns and preparation that’s required now would never have been considered in the past, so understandably, HR professionals and business owners are somewhat worried.

To help you avoid an HR headache, we’ve compiled a few points that you should think about to ensure a safe and happy return to the office.

Vaccination records

Vaccinations are one of the many steps that are being taken to reduce the impact of COVID-19, with the aim to keep people safe and avoid further spikes.

By having an understanding of how many employees are vaccinated, you’re able to plan a safer return to work.

As an employer, you can ask employees if they’ve had/are planned to have the vaccination, but you need a good reason for needing to know, for example, to keep people safe within the workplace.

If you are going to request this information, remember that it must be treated the same as all sensitive data, adhering to strict GDPR rules.

Please note that employees can refuse to answer if they’ve been vaccinated, and whether or not you can take actions will depend on a range of factors such as how much contact they have with other people.

Health and safety precautions

Even if employees have had vaccines, it’s important to remember that social distancing guidelines, hand washing and face masks are still recommended by the experts.

This means that you’ll still need to ensure a COVID-secure workplace that’s taken measures to keep people safe, including:

  • Sanitation stations
  • Reduced capacity in the building
  • One-way systems
  • Staggered shift times  

We recommend introducing a rota into the workplace – even if it’s not common in your sector – as a way to manage the number of people in the office at any given time.

While guidance may change, check out our blog from when the standards for a COVID-secure workplace were originally introduced for a better idea of what could be required.

Flexible working requests

One of the biggest takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly the rise in remote working and peoples’ overall reluctance to return to the office even when it’s safe to do so.

In fact, a recent study found that 25% of UK employees will be permanently working from home post-COVID.

So, as an employer, you need to be prepared for this influx of flexible working requests.

Although it’s crucial that you know your rights because if remote working will negatively impact your business, you can deny non-statutory requests.

However, it’s good practice to discuss it with your employees as it could raise a potential grievance otherwise.

In our recent guide, we cover flexible working requests in greater detail, as well as a range of other HR-related topics for 2021. Download the free guide here.

How IRIS HR Pro can help

Whether you want to create a form to track employee vaccinations or you’re looking to enable people to manage their HR tasks remotely, IRIS HR Pro is the software for you.

Providing a smarter way to work, IRIS HR Pro offers a cloud-based solution that utilises a modular approach, meaning you only pay for what you need.

“IRIS HR Pro has removed the old ‘clunky’ method we adopted, making it much easier for the team when requesting holidays or reporting illness.” – Martyn Verity, Senior Partner at Cantelowes

For more information and to request a demo, click here.

Preparing for the future

Predictions of another COVID spike and potential lockdown in Autumn are without a doubt a huge concern that needs addressing.

With this uncertainty in mind, it’s understandable that some businesses will be reluctant to invest in additional staff, tools, and resources.

If you feel this applies to you, perhaps an HR advisory service is the best option, providing you expert guidance until the economy stabilises.

Our UK HR Support Service, IRIS AdviserPlus, provides business owners with unlimited support from highly experienced, qualified HR professionals.

It’s an affordable way to save time and eliminate any worries you have regarding HR.

For more information and to request a callback, click here