What are the return to work policies, and will they work?

Coronavirus has changed the world and the way we work indefinitely, and as more and more countries begin to lift lockdown, certain measures are being put in place to try and protect employee safety in the workplace. The UK Government has introduced various return to work policies to try and prevent a further outbreak – but what are they? And, just as importantly, are they going to work?

The return to work policies

The return to work policies are designed to change the way we work for the better. It’s obvious that the spread of coronavirus has been exacerbated by poor hygiene and people both living and working in too close quarters. 

The measures put forward have been developed to try and prevent that. One such policy involves the increased use of PPE (personal protective equipment), such as face masks, rubber gloves, and even visors in certain sectors. As coronavirus is a primarily respiratory disease, the more people using face masks the more limited the spread.

Other measures include a heightened awareness of the importance of hygiene – primarily hand washing. This is to be done for at least 20 seconds, using soap and water, multiple times a day. A thorough scrub of the hands is required. Alcohol-based handwash can also be used when absolutely necessary, but soap and water remains far more effective.

The other aspect of return to work policies revolves around the way we work – through lockdown we have seen a dramatic increase in working from home. Where possible this is advised to continue, in an effort to keep people as far apart from each other as possible. The rise of technology means virtual meetings and remote desktops can allow employees to be just as productive, in some cases maybe even more so, when they are working from home. 

Are these policies going to work?

The science and logic behind these policies is sound – we know good hygiene helps to prevent disease, and it stands to reason that the further apart we are from each other the harder it will be for a respiratory disease to spread. (Not coughing, sneezing, and breathing all over each other is very helpful – so wear a face mask!)

Whether these policies will work or not isn’t related to the quality of the policies themselves, but more how willing people are to implement them and incorporate them as a part of the “new normal”. If people wash their hands, don’t get too close to each other, and follow the simple guidance laid out, the policies will work. 

The policies will not work, however, if people completely ignore the guidance. Poor hygiene and being too close together allowed the coronavirus to spread the first time; if that behaviour doesn’t change it can happen again.

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