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Returning to work after a pandemic

Whilst the UK wait for the latest announcement from the Government on Sunday we are starting to think about how we can safely return to work.   At the time of writing there is no official end t...

Returning to work after a pandemic

Whilst the UK wait for the latest announcement from the Government on Sunday we are starting to think about how we can safely return to work.

 

At the time of writing there is no official end to the government’s restrictions on work or travel, however other countries including Spain and Italy have begun to ease some restrictions and it is possible that the UK may follow suit in a few weeks. The current Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (more commonly known as the furlough scheme) is scheduled to end on 30 June 2020, and salons and therapists will need to begin to think about what will happen next.

 

Employers and employees need to plan now for what is likely to be a staggered return to the workplace over what could be a lengthy period. As a Salon owner or hair and beauty professional, your main concern will be how to take care of your staff and customers and protect their health and well-being. Many will be concerned and anxious about being in the salon or travelling to the salon or other place of work. Staff and clients will want to feel assured that you are supporting their physical and mental health.

 

It’s important to remember that the risks to people’s health from this pandemic are psychological as well as physical. This could stem from anxiety about the current health crisis and fear of infection, as well social isolation due to the lockdown. Many will have experienced challenging domestic situations, such as juggling childcare or caring for a vulnerable relative, as well as financial worries. Some will have experienced illness themselves, or bereavement from a family or friend. It’s important to be aware that staff may need to adjust to working in a shared environment with colleagues again. Some may take more time than others and it’s likely that most people will need some sort of readjustment. Some members of staff may have concerns about travelling to work on public transport, so be wary of those who are needing to travel this way. Many may find that they are still coming to terms with the significant change which society has seen, and the once very familiar workplace routines could feel very different to what they are used to now.

 

The priority for every business should be managing a safe return to the workplace for staff, it’s crucial that you work closely with health and safety and occupational health teams wherever possible. If this is not possible within your business, seek advice from the government official websites. It’s a great idea to communicate the practical measures you are taking to staff on a regular basis to help reassure them that their health, well-being and safety is your top priority. Make sure employees are clear about what procedure they should follow if they begin to feel unwell, both in the workplace and at home.

 

It will be vital to have a re-induction process for returning staff. Encourage and support everyone to and show them that the key focus is on health, safety and well-being. Employers need to have a sensitive and open discussion with every individual and discuss any adjustments and/or ongoing support they may need to facilitate an effective return to the workplace and having an open mind to this will be very helpful. It could be that some staff require a phased return to their full role, or want to discuss a new working arrangement, especially if their domestic situation has changed because of the pandemic.

 

Whether you are the owner of the salon business or an employee, you should take a step back and review your workplace to consider that during the current climate, how people are keeping safe. Can you and your staff maintain a 2m distance from each other? How will you arrange team meetings? Are your staff communal areas suited for distancing? Will your team be working the same hours or staggered working hours? This is a very disconcerting time for all so input from the workplace entirely would probably be very well received.

 

When you are at the point where you are able to have clients back in the salon, it would be a good idea to ask customers whether they have had a cough, temperature etc before a they come for an appointment. it would also be good practice to ask them to contact you whether they have felt under the weather since an appointment with you/your business. This is where record cards will become so important as if someone falls ill you will be able to quickly and easily work out who has been in contact with the unwell person.

 

We can probably assume that all of the key protection and hygiene measures will continue to apply to minimise the spread of infection for quite some time, it could be an idea to remind staff about regular and effective handwashing and providing hand sanitiser. If your premises have been closed for a period of time, you should carry out a deep clean before you reopen to the public. You should therefore review your cleaning arrangements, for example ensuring all phones/keyboards etc are wiped daily and sanitising treatment rooms and areas in-between clients. You could introduce new cleaning measures into your salon such as sanitisation mats for customers feet before entering the salon, screens at the reception desks as well as nail desks. Hand sanitisation/cleaning stations should be easily accessible for people to use. The timings between each client should be extended so that each workstation can be thoroughly cleaned before the next client arrives and encourage your clients to pay for their treatment by card.

 

It seems likely that there will be a requirement for some form of social distancing for quite a while even when lockdown restrictions have been minimised. It is therefore essential that salon owners continue to base any plans for returning to the workplace on up-to-date Government and public health guidance in relation to COVID-19, these plans should include a detailed risk management approaches to safeguard their health and minimise the risk of infection. You may need to consider providing additional PPE, including gloves, masks or anti-bacterial hand gel. If you want people to wear gloves/masks, then you should also think about training/briefing your staff on their correct usage – since both can be ineffective if used incorrectly. You will probably find that your clients will feel much more at ease if your staff have completed the correct training. All staff members should complete additional training in sanitisation procedures, correct application of PPE and prevention and control of infections relation to COVID-19.

 

Lastly, it would be recommended to have a crisis plan for your business going forward, consider contingency plans for any future recurrence of COVID-19 or a similar crisis, taking learnings from the current COVID-19 experience. We must not assume things will ever go back to the old “normal” but with the high emphasis on hygiene and sanitation that has always been so highly instilled in the industry and customers wanting to look good and feel good again there is no reason why this crisis cannot be turned into a successful bounce back for your business if the correct approach is taken.

 

Keep well, keep safe and we can’t wait to speak to all our amazing customers again soon.

 

7th May 2020