If your working place was closed/restricted for a certain period of time due to reasons related to COVID-19, you can make a plan to restart work, which should be in conformity with the health and safety requirements. In making such a plan, you should take into consideration the following:
• Update the risk assessment, as you have already been repeatedly informed by us.
• Adapt the structure of the working place and the organization of work itself, so as to limit the transmission of COVID-19 before the full resumption of work and before all employees have come back to their working place. Consider the possibility of resuming the work by stages, which will enable you to make changes. Make sure that before resuming your work, you have informed the workers about the changes and that you have stipulated new procedures and training for them.
• Give special attention to the workers at high risk and be prepared to protect the most vulnerable, including the elderly and the people with chronic diseases (such as high blood pressure, lung diseases or heart problems, diabetes or people subject to anticancer treatment or other kinds of immunosuppressive therapy), as well as pregnant women. Take care also of the workers whose family members are exposed to high risk.
• Think about providing support for workers who might suffer from anxiety or stress. There are different kinds of measures — ranging from managers asking more often the workers how they feel, facilitating the exchange or the friendly communications among colleagues, through online team building, changes in the organization of labour and the tasks related to the work, to programmes for supporting employees or individual training, as well as making contact with an occupational health service center. Please bear in mind that the workers might have experienced traumatic events, such as serious illness or death of a family member or a friend, or that perhaps they face financial difficulties or problems in their personal relations.
• The people in employment who are coming back to their working place after a period of isolation, whether as an individual measure or as part of collective isolation, will probably feel anxiety, particularly in respect of the risk from infection. This anxiety, moreover if there are changes at work, may lead to problems with the stress and the psychic health. In the cases of imposed physical distancing measures, such problems are not only more probable but also the usual mechanism for management, for instance privacy or sharing problems with others, are lacking. Provide information to the workers about publicly accessible sources of support and advice. Mental Health Europe has available information about how to take care of our psychic health and how to manage the threat of COVID-19.
• The workers may feel anxiety due to the increased possibility to get infected at the working place which may be a reason for not wanting to come back to work. It is important to understand their concerns, to provide information about the measures you have undertaken and about the available support. We gave you examples in the previous issue of this bulletin.
Do not hesitate to contact our team should you need further information and assistance!