Is there a treatment for Coronaphobia?
With the COVID-19 lockdown costing the country £2 billion a day, we can only imagine the discussions going on behind the closed doors of Westminster as the government grapples with how to get the country back to work.
You’d be mistaken for believing that we are all desperate to get out and back to our normal lives as soon as it’s deemed safe to do so. And yet, polling has suggested that over a quarter of us don’t think lockdown should be eased at all as yet.
With reports of some people who have gone back to work receiving abuse from their neighbours, believing they are being put at risk, perhaps it’s no wonder that less than half of us will be happy about returning to our offices in the near future.
This phenomenon is termed ‘coronaphobia’, another novel expression in this new language we are all learning. It’s perhaps partly due to communications -government ministers have been reported as saying the stay-at-home message has been a little bit too successful! And partly that we have got used to being in our homes and feel safe there.
Whatever the reason, it’s likely that the uncertainty around when we return to work may give way to concerns about how to do so.
Making the move back to work
Companies that are considering re-opening in the coming weeks will be faced with a very different work landscape and a very concerned workforce. How they manage the wellbeing of their staff will be under the microscope. It’s vital that leaders have a reintroduction plan in place and that they have risk assessed all aspects of their operation.
The importance of communication
Covid-19 is the most traumatic health risk that most of us have faced in our lifetime, and employers must recognise that their teams will need reassurance. Feeling safe is very important. We’d suggest you should talk to your employees in advance of any return about their individual concerns and look at what steps can be taken to address them. A key area of this will be highly visible health and safety measures. Managing the flow of personnel whilst minimising close contact, reviewing the cleaning procedures, restricting meetings, and maybe even regular temperature checks are just some of the aspects that need considering.
Facing the challenges
It’s likely that you’ll need to work on a phased return – indeed there are suggestions that No 10 will make this compulsory. And you’ll be faced with a number of challenges in your workforce – the people with vulnerable family members, or those who may be themselves vulnerable or are worried about travelling on public transport. A new approach will be needed that might involve reassigning duties, staggered starting times, and patterns of work with days in and out of the office. Employees have had the right to request flexible working arrangements for some years – with us all just having taken part in the largest home working trial ever seen, you would have to have very solid reasons for refusing this to workers once we return to work.
Worst case scenario planning
A clear plan about what happens if someone is tested positive should be a part of this strategy and should be communicated to your staff. Sharing such plans helps to build employee confidence, and supports a feeling that you are taking any risk to their health seriously.
It would be a mistake to assume that the current remote working conditions are just temporary while we manage the threat of coronavirus and that we’ll quickly return to the pre-pandemic norm. In our opinion, the workplace will never be the same again.
What challenges do you see in making your employees feel safe to return to work?
Have you started planning yet? Do share your thoughts below.