As businesses are given the green light to re-open, it’s a question on every business owners mind; how can we ensure our employees are safe? Employers are in a strong position to support the adoption of new behaviours into the workplace to help stop the spread of Coronavirus. All it takes is planning and willingness to adapt and hopefully you’ve already got a good idea of what needs to be done.

Norfolk County Council (NCC) have provided some excellent, digestible guidance for Norfolk businesses to accompany the advice from HSE and central government. This discusses ways to help reduce the spread of Coronavirus as well as creating awareness of common scams currently circulating. This information is great for offering up ideas and solutions which will hopefully work well for your business, to ensure the working environment is safe for all.

See the full NCC guidance via this link along with some other really useful information as well as posters, leaflets and social media images available to use- https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/what-we-do-and-how-we-work/campaigns/coronavirus-toolkit-for-professionals

Where do we begin?! Let’s start with the basics:

1. Understanding

Sometimes the obvious and easy tasks get over-looked or we may think we’re doing them right, but we’re not. It may be worth making sure employees know how to carry out tasks, such as hand washing, correctly. Here are some key things we can ALL do to protect everyone around us:

• Wash our hands, properly! (check out the NHS video below if you need reminding how it’s done)
• Use tissues to catch sneezes and coughs
• Keep our distance from others, so aim for the 2 meter rule if possible!
• Work from home where possible
• Keep surfaces/ touchpoints clean
• Reduce hand to face contact
• Cover our nose and mouths where appropriate such as by wearing face masks.
• Isolate if symptomatic or identified contact

2. Knowledge and Skills

For the Workspace: There are a number of principles which determine how likely people are to undertake a behaviour or action. For a work environment to be at its safest, everyone needs to pull together and make an effort to add new tasks to their everyday, to give the best chance of protection. Here are the top pointers where people are more likely to do something successfully if:

• They understand why they’re being asked to do something including how they themselves will benefit from it. (e.g. Has it been discussed with the whole team what impact these tasks have on your particular business and what could be the effects if they are not carried out?)
• What they’re being asked to do is within their skill set
• The right tools/equipment are at hand to carry out the task successfully
• Actions are as simple as possible
• They see others doing the same
• Whatever task becomes a habit

3. Environment

Having the right environment and making sure the resources are there is key to ensuring these new behaviours stick. Here are some to consider:

• Is hand sanitiser available for people at the points where you would want them to use it? E.g. at your main and staff entrances, at joint workstations, till points.
• Do the toilet facilities need monitoring to ensure soap and paper towels kept stocked?
• Have you conveniently placed bins to dispose of tissues and paper towels/dryer?
• If your business has direct contact to customers, how could you minimise touching of surfaces/ items? Would propping open doors and encouraging contactless ways of payment be possible?
• How possible is it to stagger working hours and breaks?
• Would any staff be able to work from home?

4. Ease

The more convenient it is to do something; the more likely people will do it. Consider factors such as:

• Supplying employees with personal bottles of hand sanitizer to keep on their person
• Making sure instructions such as one-way systems and queue spacing are clear e.g. ‘Keep Left’ ‘Keep 2 Metres Distance’
• Ensure any one-way systems/floor markings are do-able and the most direct route to avoid people skipping them
• As well as supplying employees with PPE, could extra face masks be supplied to those who have to use public transport to get to and from work?
• Could employees who may still be shielding or self-isolating benefit from more support? Whether that’s through checking up on their well-being or offering extra support.
• Has the lay out of staff room/kitchen areas been considered and rearranged? It can be a place for socialising so it’s easy to forget the rules. Spacing out chairs, poster prompts to wash hands before eating and after touching surfaces may help.

5. Acceptability

Making these changes to personal routines and sticking to them is hard, there’s no doubt about it. So, it may be worth showing some appreciation to your employees for their efforts in order to boost morale and keep the changes going. Here are some tips to make it a little easier on everyone in the team and show solidarity:

• Are staff on every level displaying the actions that are being asked of them? Leading by example is a powerful thing, so don’t ignore it!
• Thanking people by acting in a responsible way will always help reinforce behaviour. A simple thank you if someone moves out of your way to give space will go a long way.
• Do you understand any barriers employees might have for not doing any of the actions? A common example we’re all familiar with is having very dry hands from regular use of hand sanitiser and excessive hand washing, so it may be worth supplying moisturiser.
• Make sure the efforts of everyone are praised once in a while. We all know it’s nice to be appreciated for the things we do.

6. Remembering

It’s a bit of a shocker but some habits such as washing hands after using the toilet are not as habitual for some people. All of the things we’ve covered here can help everyone remember about the new changes. But by also having open reminders, it can be really effective at encouraging people to do things:

• Display prompt posters in key areas e.g. ‘Wash Your Hands’ or ‘STOP- Have You Washed Your hands?’
• Implementing a cleaning schedule to make sure touch points are kept clean throughout the day and especially before leaving for the day. These might include light switches, flush handles, door handles, machine buttons and kitchen appliances like kettles and fridge door handles.
• Set out floor markings or posters to encourage employees and/or customers to distance when queuing or working, or to walk in a certain direction so it becomes a habit.

Something To Watch Out For- Scam Alerts!

If adapting to the way our businesses operate wasn’t challenging enough, there are some people out to make it harder. NCC are urging us to be aware of scams taking advantage of individuals and business’ situations during the pandemic. There’s plenty of advice to increase awareness of scams targeting businesses as well as helplines for extra support. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But checking the source and legitimacy of an offer or deal is always a good idea.

You can sign up to receive Norfolk County Council email consumer or business scam alerts and also report scams here.

If there is anything you feel we at Hethel Innovation can help your business with, we’d love to hear from you!

Other useful links to take a look at:

Scams targeting businesses: https://www.businesscompanion.info/en/quick-guides/miscellaneous/business-scams

Local scam news for Norfolk businesses: https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/news/2020/03/coronavirus-scams-warning

HSE guidance: https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/working-safely-during-coronavirus-outbreak.htm

Government guidance: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19