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What does ‘getting back to work’ mean?

Man at a desk

Yesterday (Thursday 14 May), our Advice Service published a new ‘one stop’ support webpage to support employers as they consider how to get their staff back to their original workplace or working environment.

As a business facing Service, our Advice Service has been at the forefront of hearing about the trends and key concerns of businesses at each stage of COVID-19. As many of our members operate globally, we were receiving queries about coronavirus back in December 2020 even before it was officially named as “COVID-19” in February this year. We saw many of our members choosing to move as many of their staff as possible to home-working long before lockdown was considered by the UK Government, and we have more recently seen businesses keen to get their organisation operating as usual, even prior to the Government’s announcements on returning to work during the last week.

Throughout each of our conversations with members, one thing is clear: no business is the same in how a return to usual working practices will need to be managed. There were regular themes emerging from the concerns and questions we are being asked, even if the micro detail was different.

We have therefore created the guidance on this webpage as ‘questions for consideration’ which prompts an organisation to consider how something will affect their specific employee, team, department, workforce. The questions will guide employers through thinking about how to prepare the working environment for employees to return to it, and the wider issues to consider: facilities, such as air conditioning and fans; social and psychological factors, such as messaging and managing employees’ anxiety about health risk; what to think about when assessing if all staff should return at the same time; and identifying who might particularly benefit from remaining a homeworker for longer. We have also addressed the most common questions we receive about a potential second wave of COVID-19 and we importantly consider how employers must consider employees who have had ongoing NHS treatment and medical procedures cancelled.

As guidance from the Government and other key bodies (such as the EHRC and CIPD) become available, it will be held in the section titled “Further information and latest guidance”. This comes from businesses telling us there is so much information in different places that it is hard to keep up with. Our Advice Service’s aim is to make our members’ jobs easier, so we hope putting everything here in one place will do just that.

Lockdown particularly has been, literally, life-changing for very many businesses and their staff. Some employees are enjoying it, and others loathe it and are itching to return to being among their colleagues and returning to their favourite working-day coffee shop. For businesses, lockdown working has provided an opportunity to overhaul their approach to flexible and remote working and, for others, lockdown working brings an economically frustrating and stressful disruption. Whatever the circumstances, we are seeing that COVID-19 has increased anxiety among staff, particularly related to returning to work and the risk to their and their loved ones’ health which, in turn, has meant employers are dealing with an unprecedented nature of (understandable) fear and anxiety among an incredibly high percentage of their workforce.

Whatever the circumstances your businesses is facing, we hope this page will help you. Members, do call us and tell us what you are dealing with; many other of our Members are calling us to do the same and we look forward to supporting you through whatever your organisation needs to do next.

And if you’d like to learn how to become a Member or Partner of Business Disability Forum, please find out more here

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