At the Unruly Pig in Suffolk, it has certainly been no picnic for me and my staff. However, despite everything, I remain thoughtful, encouraged and hopeful for the future, in large part due to the possibilities opened up by the rollout of twice weekly workplace testing.
The worry for the business has been huge, but things are now thankfully turning a corner. The vaccination rollout has been a rip-roaring success, long may it continue.
But there is still a little distance to travel before all adults receive their jabs, so testing will be a crucial tool to prevent outbreaks in the workplace as restrictions ease.
Around one in three people with coronavirus do not have symptoms, which means they could be spreading the virus in workplaces without knowing.
Rapid testing for people without symptoms detects cases quickly, with new analysis by NHS Test and Trace showing that for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is fewer than one false positive result.
Considerable degree of relief
This means that positive cases can isolate immediately, breaking chains of transmission while minimising business disruption as no one has to isolate themselves unnecessarily.
For me, this is one reason why I was so delighted and relieved to be offered workplace testing, as it offered a considerable degree of relief as a way of keeping my employees safe and staying open for business.
My first concern is the safety of my staff and customers, and we have invested heavily in anti-Covid-19 measures introducing bespoke booths, a marquee, automatic taps, and temperature testing.
But like any business owner, I also wanted to make sure this investment would definitely count towards keeping the business running. Very many of the team are aged 30 or under, so it’s unlikely they would have been vaccinated and able to come to work at the time of reopening.
However, the addition of workplace testing has allowed us all to work and welcome customers back with confidence, which has been hugely reassuring for everyone.
One way the Unruly Pig has sought to reassure customers is by the significant prominence they give to signage which confirms the whole team are tested twice weekly.
Safe and comfortable
For us it’s critical that our customers feel safe and comfortable, and letting them know that staff are testing regularly has been a great help to our reopening plans. This practice has prompted many comments of commendation by customers, some of whom still feel vulnerable even post-vaccination.
There was initially some staff scepticism to overcome, but soon the benefits became clear. The best of sceptics in the team have been won over.
They have recognised it helps them and their families, and helps keep the business open. A couple of the team have even taken me aside and actually thanked me for introducing testing.
They said they felt cared for – they said they feel safe at work and one team member in particular felt very reassured as his partner at home is in a vulnerable category.
As for the future, I unequivocally recommend workplace testing, as it was easy to set up and straightforward to administer. Overall, it has brought peace of mind as a source of reassurance that I am taking all reasonable steps to care for our customers and my team members.
I need to do all I reasonably can to remain open – the thought of even temporary closure gives me the shudders! The pandemic has shown there are no guarantees, but regular testing could be the difference between staying open or needing to close due to a Covid-19 outbreak.
Testing will form a crucial part of everyday life as parts of society reopen. By embracing it now, it helps me sleep at night knowing that I have tried my very best to keep everyone at the Unruly Pig safe.