Manufacturers planning to restart production should consider providing clearer guidelines and added assurance around personal safety to help employees feel comfortable about returning to work.
That’s according to Parry Catering Equipment, whose own plant has remained operational throughout the pandemic in order to provide thousands of items of equipment to the healthcare sector.
Speaking on the latest episode of FEJ’s Market Talk series – which is available to view HERE – Parry’s managing director, Mark Banton, said the crisis has taught his company the importance of clear communication and listening to staff.
“What we did initially, as soon as the announcement on lockdown happened, was to hold a team brief with all of the shop floor and all of the office staff.
“We have always had team briefs but they have probably been every three to six months depending on what’s happening and whether there is anything to actually tell the staff about, so for me the most important thing is the communication with your staff and the welfare of your staff.
“You need to make them feel completely comfortable with what is happening in that environment. If they want PPE, if there is PPE needed, – even marking out the floors – it is about talking to the staff and making sure all their questions are answered.”
On Sunday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that people who cannot work from home, such as those in manufacturing, should be “actively encouraged” to return to work this week.
Mr Banton (pictured above) said Parry had made some major strides in terms of flexible working during the pandemic, particularly in terms of protecting staff members with vulnerable family members.
It has also introduced self-declaration forms requiring staff to confirm on a weekly basis that they have not been in contact with anybody suffering from Covid-19.
“It all helps to build up confidence with the workforce – and it is very much about putting the onus on each person to say, ‘have I been anywhere that I could have been exposed to the virus, am I confident that I won’t expose anybody at work?’.
“That sort of peer pressure helps generate confidence, and it helped generate a good culture amongst the workforce. Any factory starting back, the first thing they need to do is really think about the questions that employees are going to have – everything from how they get to work, what time they start, where the wash facilities are – all of these sort of hygienic elements need to be addressed before they start to think about manufacturing or anything.
“And I think the other thing is, we are not a unionised workforce but a lot of businesses are, a lot of manufacturers are, so unions and the management need to be very, very tight and work together to convey the right messages to the employees.”