Is It Too Soon To Return To The Office?

Everything you need to know about the easing of restrictions, and how it affects your workplace.

As restrictions ease, many businesses are starting to think about their employees returning to the office. But just because restrictions have eased doesn’t mean things are back to normal in the workplace. On June 1, stage two of restrictions came into effect in Queensland. This means some businesses, particularly office-based companies, could re-open and people are no longer required to work from home. However, as a caveat, the Queensland government stated that if it suits both the employer and the employee to continue working from home, then they should keep doing so. If you’re not comfortable returning to the office yet, you need to talk to your employer, or your union, about how you can work out a solution that suits you both.

Together union can help you understand the restrictions placed on your employer, as well as your rights as an employee. Here’s everything you need to know about the easing of restrictions in Queensland, and how it affects your return to work.

It’s not too soon to return to the office if….social distancing is adhered to.

Just because you’re heading back to the office doesn’t mean you should forget about physical distancing. In enclosed workspaces there must be at least four square metres of space per person, and at least 1.5 metres between people at all times. Face to face interactions should be limited to less than 15 minutes and meetings when people are in close proximity in the same room should be capped at two hours.

It’s not too soon to return to the office if….plans are in place.

Businesses asking staff to come back to the office should have a COVID SAFE Plan, to ensure everyone is adhering to the hygiene rules and the correct procedures in the workplace. Ask your union for advice on finding out whether your employer has one.

It’s not too soon to return to the office if….shared spaces are reconsidered.

Restrictions might be eased but employees still need to consider how staff will use shared spaces such as bathrooms, kitchens and staff rooms to ensure appropriate physical distancing. Ask your employer how they’re planning on managing this, and check in with your union if you’re concerned about their plans.

It’s not too soon to return to the office if…flexible or staggered work is an option.

If it’s too hard for people to physically distance in an office, the government recommends changing work rosters or staggering start and finish times for employees. This ensures there aren’t too many people in the space at one time, and also avoids crowds of people trying to take the lift or use the kitchen at the same time of day. Ask your union for support if your employer is reluctant to be flexible with your working hours.

It’s not too soon to return to the office if….you collect customer details.

Stage 2 of restrictions still means being aware of how you deal with face to face, and the effect this may have. Employees who come in to contact with customers, clients or contractors should ask for their name, address and phone number, which should be kept for 56 days. This means if there is a COVID-19 case within the business, health authorities can contact trace anyone who has been in contact with the infected person.

It’s not too soon to return to the office if….people stay vigilant.

Stage 3 is due to come into effect on July 10. This means there can be 100 people in one place – but it doesn’t mean you, or your employer, can stop caring about other rules that will remain in place. Physical distancing, hand hygiene, coughing into your elbow, staying at home if you feel ill, and frequent cleaning and disinfecting must all still happen in the workplace. If you feel uncomfortable about your health and safety at work, contact your union for support.

Together union can offer advice about returning to work safely.