Like thousands of other business owners throughout the UK, I have spent so much time recently on issues that normally wouldn’t ever present a challenge for a company operating with a robust team for over 40 years. Our working world has changed beyond recognition, not just for employees, but for those providing employment for their workforce. The sense of responsibility weighs heavier than ever as we try and balance health and safety with productivity in a way previously unknown to us.
As restrictions continue to ease and the Government gives the green light to sectors to re-open their doors the planning, man hours and thought processes that are behind just ‘opening the doors’ can be all consuming. It goes far beyond just letting colleagues know that they can come into the office again. Workstations and offices are being reconfigured, shared equipment re-thought and what once was the hub of many a busy office, the kitchen, deserted as those that are present bring their own refreshments from home.
The balancing act of starting to address servicing the needs of clients with available manpower in the business, is a tough test, that would leave even the most experienced scratching their heads. There are lots of people eager to get back to normality and those who are not yet able to immerse themselves in their usual working environments for family, vulnerable dependents or childcare reasons.
We, as with all other organisations, have spent time looking at what can be done safely and what is yet still too big an ask. We are fortunate to be in the fire and security sector which means that we have information and technology insights that many other businesses do not. A good handle on the solutions, the costs and the implications of mobilising the workforce again with respect to the virus that has disabled the economy and changed all our lives beyond recognition in recent months.
We have installed a thermal camera to help monitor the health of our team as they arrive and are advising many businesses, public sector buildings and retailers on the cost savings and benefits of electronic marshalling and people counting.
What we do know is that COVID-19 is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Care homes have a new challenge from which to protect their elderly residents, hospitals are learning how to operate long term under the 2m rule and visitors are still not permitted on wards.
It has given us time, time at home, time to think about what’s important. As a business we are helping organisations to restore confidence in the public and their teams and to help plan solutions that will get the UK back to work safely and at a pace that feels sensible, responsible and giving due deference to COVID-19.
I have had many sleepless nights about what feels right, when is the time to press on and how to keep staff not just physically safe but make them feel safe in their workplace.
There are so many unknowns it’s impossible to call, it has to be a combination of management of movement and common sense. I don’t envy the major decision makers and can’t wait until our team are all back to work in our redefined operating environment.
David Barnes, Managing Director, Black Box Fire & Security.