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Navigating the return to work: keeping your team safe and your business running

Guest post: By Heidi Birkin, Head of Marketing, Deputy – The infection rate has reduced, but not disappeared..  The country is itching to get out of… View Article


Navigating the return to work: keeping your team safe and your business running

Guest post: By Heidi Birkin, Head of Marketing, Deputy – The infection rate has reduced, but not disappeared..  The country is itching to get out of quarantine, but cautious and concerned about their safety.  The lockdown is easing and many in the retail sector are in the process of working out whether and how to recalibrate their businesses, workplaces and working models to be Covid-19 safe and build resilience for the future.

In reality we are not really ‘returning’ to work but defining a new work paradigm which puts the health and safety of employees and customers plus business agility at the centre.   Whilst challenging, this is also an opportunity to make sustainable improvements to your business by rethinking working patterns to optimise your workforce  and building flexibility into your operations to react to changing demand and regulations.

Adapting your workplace and working patterns

 There’s a lot to consider in preparing your workplace to deliver a positive experience, meet social distancing requirements and adapt to changing demand. From modelling customer capacity and flow – avoiding congestion in store, organising waiting areas outside of store, etc. –  to managing the point of sale – screens to protect customers and staff, mobile phone apps for ordering and purchase, etc.  – store experiences will evolve.

Shift patterns also need to change.  Capacity may limit the number of people per shift so operating hours might need to be extended and new shift patterns developed.  Staggering start, finish and break times will enable social distancing and avoid congestion at entrances and common areas such as break rooms.

Rotating schedules, or “squad scheduling”, are emerging as a technique to de-risk infection and avoid cross contamination.  Workers are split in squads – fixed groups – and then into shifts.  Each squad works independently of each other and does not overlap with any other squad so if someone does become infected or displays symptoms the squad immediately isolates and the rest of the team gets tested.  This concept can be extended to ‘buddies’ – if certain tasks require two people – unloading deliveries for example – the buddy system means the same two colleagues always work together- again limiting the spread of any infection.

These shift patterns can be complex and take some time to set up but provide added protection for your business and, more importantly, enable employees to stay safe and continue to work.  And you can get help by using workforce management systems or scheduling software to help build and adapt the shift patterns.

Building confidence in your new workplace

Many people will be concerned about returning to work and will be uncomfortable with the changes to their environment.   Transparency, clarity and empathy will all be needed to reassure employees that every effort has been made to keep them  safe.  New policies, processes and procedures should  be clearly communicated so employees understand how to keep themselves, their colleagues and customers safe.

Companies are adopting tools that can help implement these new procedures and track things such as body temperature, COVID-19 symptoms and also keep an eye on employee wellbeing.  One of our customers is using Deputy shift questions to check in how employees are feeling.  You might also add  questions on travel and provide contactless or minimal access points.

Communication is also critical to maintain positivity and team spirit during a time when staff are working remotely, on furlough, self isolating or organised into squads.  Using technology to keep distanced teams together can help maintain strong teams and positive employee engagement.

Insight and agility to make the right decisions

The environment is changing so fast  – demand triggers and regulation are moving on a daily basis. And you want to make sure that your business can react and adapt to ensure survival and a sustainable future.

For example, the ability to track labour costs against sales or demand will help make informed decisions about how to adapt your business model to make the most out of the current environment.

Now’s the time to invest or review business insight.  Cloud based apps can easily integrate together to give you powerful insight which can help power and sustain your business – enabling your business to adapt and flex to the emerging ‘new normal’.

For further information


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