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East Midlands Chamber News

Business guidance for 19 July: East Midlands Chamber issues advice on face coverings and hybrid working

Responding to the publication of Government guidance for businesses ahead of the stage four of the roadmap out of lockdown commencing on 19 July, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) chief executive Scott Knowles said: “It’s fantastic to be at a stage where further reopening of the economy can take place. However, as we look forward to Monday, it’s important that the everyone understands that face coverings and hand sanitising might not disappear overnight from all workplaces, businesses and venues.

“Firms recognise that they need to continue to play their part in keeping employees and customers safe – as they have done throughout the course of the pandemic.

“Businesses will welcome the removal of some specific legal restrictions, such as mandatory face coverings in indoor settings, but the guidance also underlines that they still have an overall responsibility to minimise risk to those in their premises. Individual businesses know best what this means for them and it is important that employees and customers alike respect the decisions they take for how they operate come Monday.

“As some of the Government messaging is causing confusion for companies with just days remaining until restrictions are lifted, it means firms will have to make a judgement call and effectively communicate how they will operate to staff and customers.

“This is a tight turnaround, but with cases continuing to rise, we hope the public will understand the need to stick to the Covid safety rules put in place at each individual location.”

On the lifting of homeworking guidance, East Midlands Chamber director of resources and HR lead Lucy Robinson said: “What’s clear from our experiences over the past 16 months is that employee expectations have fundamentally changed. Pre-Covid, there was a tacit acceptance that people must visit a dedicated workplace to carry out their job, but lockdown has shown this doesn’t have to be the case.

“Some have reported feeling happier when working from home and believe it helps to create a better work-life balance, while for others it’s blurred the distinction between their job and family lives – or increased loneliness.

“Where possible and suitable, many businesses may find that a hybrid approach to remote and office work is the best way forward for employees – although it should be stressed this will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis as it won’t work for everyone.

“What’s clear though is that employees will want certainty moving forward, particularly given the huge amount of turbulence we’ve all felt in our lives since the first national lockdown.

“They will want to know what their employers’ plans are for reopening offices and what expectations are for how often they should be present, so communication is key.

“Employers will also need to find the best way to monitor performance in this new age of flexible working, and refreshing training for managers so they understand how best to lead teams remotely may be helpful.

“Finally, once employees are back in the office, you should ask whether the space fits the new way of working. It should have a positive impact on wellbeing and performance, featuring collaborative spaces where people connect with their teams and the wider organisation – as well as still being able to have virtual meetings.

“Ultimately, this forthcoming period will be one of more experimentation, making tweaks and adjustments to find the right balance. But putting your people at the heart of everything will go a long way to maintaining a happy workforce.”