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Plan B lifted: what difficulties lie ahead?

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Plan B measures in England, including work from home guidance, will end on 27 January. But with so many false starts already, and the uncertainty of COVID still looming, what difficulties will HR face in bringing people back to the workplace?

Though there will be challenges ahead Simon Blake, chief executive at Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA England) said the end of restrictions in England will be a hopeful move for many.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “The end of restrictions is a positive step towards a return to normality and one that will be cause for celebration for many, myself included.

“I’m looking forward to returning to the buzz of an office environment and the ability to spontaneously catch up.”


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Transitioning between fully remote and hybrid will take thought though, he added, and organisations must avoid a pendulum shift between one extreme (all home working) and another (all office working).

“Real flexibility and flexibility ‘done well’ is not just a reaction to trends, it is part of an overall mental health and wellbeing strategy for the organisation," he said.

“Let’s not enforce rigid boundaries and instead of thinking about forever, take a whole-organisation, fluid approach to workplace wellbeing."

To ease people into the next stage of hybrid work, Rich Westman, CEO and founder of employee engagement software provider Kaido, advised creating safe spaces for those who may be anxious about coming back.

He also suggested creating more opportunities to encourage some of the social aspects many have missed about physical workplaces.

“Daily stand-ups can sometimes feel forced and put employees under pressure,” he said.

“Try implementing company-wide team-building initiatives such as wellbeing challenges that not only support colleagues with their physical and mental health but also create a common non-work-related context to interact around.”

Face masks will no longer be mandatory in England, but are recommended by government in busy, indoor settings.

Self-isolation for people with coronavirus is also set to end on 24 March, which may alleviate some of the challenges businesses have been having with staff supply.

Restrictions in Scotland will also be eased from 24 January, removing limits on the number of people who can meet indoors, and reopening nightclubs, but keeping use of COVID passes for entry to larger events. Face masks will still be required on public transport and in shops, hospitality and leisure venues. 

Similarly, Wales will also keep the use of COVID passes for entry into certain venues. Work from home guidance will be lifted and the nation will move to a three-week review on restrictions.

Northern Ireland meanwhile still has many restrictions in place, and COVID passes are required for most indoor venues.

 

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