Helping employees as the schools reopen

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Health Assured team

28 August 2020

At time of writing, the UK government is proposing that schools and colleges should reopen as normal for the academic year beginning September 2020. This is for all students. 

Now for many, who are anxious about childcare as they return to work, this is a blessing. But to others, it’s a worry—coronavirus is still an issue, and there’s understandable uncertainty in some circles about the return. After all, the safety of staff, pupils, parents and the wider community must come first. 

The official guidance on reopening schools is fairly robust, with assessments, systems of control and contingency measures in place. But not everyone is going to have the time to read them—or even really, know that they’re there. 

It’s important to make sure that people are reassured and convinced that their children and families are safe in the event of a full return. As an employer, you should be taking steps to assure and minimise anxiety, allow for worries that may affect people’s ability to work, and leading by example. Here are some ways to navigate the return to school—and work—for everyone. 

Communicate 

People, as we say, may be anxious. Sending a young child to school, when you’re not 100% certain that their safety is guaranteed, is a big, big ask. But there are plenty of resources which serve to reassure. For example, the guidance for parents and carers of children attending out-of-school settings during the coronavirus outbreak is regularly updated, and applies to the autumn term. It includes explanations of risk assessments, protective measures, and expectations that are set in place for all school and school-related activities—and importantly, these measures are stringent. PPE, testing, tracing and distancing are all recommended, with face coverings to be made available if required. 

Talk openly about this. Regular updates, in which these measures are promoted and celebrate, will reach far more employees than the dry press releases that accompany these measures. There’s some confusion over mixed messaging, which is contributing to the air of anxiety around reopening—you can reduce this by presenting the facts. 

Listen 

A lot of people are going to have serious concerns. After all, family and wellbeing are the most important things on most peoples’ minds, and some of the mixed messaging around is doing little to reassure. 

The best way to handle this is by being open, caring, and listening. Let people voice their worries and concerns. A lot of the time, people simply want their voice to be heard—and when they’re given the opportunity to speak freely, much of the time that’s reassurance enough. 

Act 

As you listen, you’re going to hear a lot of different stories from a lot of different circumstances. This is a positive thing—the best way to build a resilient workplace is to understand everyone who is a part of it. But listening doesn’t mean anything if you don’t listen carefully, and act upon the things you learn. 

Some people will be clinically vulnerable, or have children in the same circumstance. Some will be nervous about available childcare. Many will have concerns about the safety of the workplace. 

Advise, guide, and reassure. Schools have, as mentioned earlier, stringent guidelines in place, and are as safe as can be. Your own workplace should have had risk assessments, plans in place, and measures to stop the potential spread of coronavirus. 

The trick is to be confident, to be truthful, and walk it like you talk it. Lead by example, and when September rolls around and the kids go back to their routine, your own routine will follow suit. 

Any questions or concerns? Contact Health Assured for expert guidance today, or consult our industry leading smartphone app My Healthy Advantage, available now. 

 

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