After nearly six months of COVID-19 mandatory shutdowns, most businesses were forced to change the ways they operate during this time. The pandemic alone has cause fear and stress to everyday life, and as businesses and offices slowly reopen, every worker has one more thing to worry about.
“What is the post-COVID-19 workplace going to look like and how safe or healthy is the workplace?”
Employers will need to be extra sensitive of their employee’s emotions and take extra precautions to ensure the health and safety of their teams. During times like this is when a company’s culture towards the health and safety of their employees and their safety plans will show just how much a company cares for their staff. A company that puts their employees first and ahead of anything else will win in attracting new employees and help retain their best employees.
Below is a list of considerations that employers will need to take in ensuring a safe return to the physical workplace for their teams:
1) Plan, Educate, Transparency and Communication
Before anyone steps back into the office, employers should have a safe return plan in place with safety policies and procedures regarding the use of masks and face coverings, physical distancing, hand washing and sanitizing, cleaning and disinfection, etc. Employers need to educate their employees on the changes that need to be made to operate efficiently and safely in a shared workspace. Proper signage and information bulletin should be used to remind and inform those in the workplace of such policies and procedures. Both employers and their staff need to be transparent about any potential illnesses identified in the workplace. And more than ever before, there needs to be strong communication channels from the top-down and bottom-up so that all relevant information is passed to everyone.
2) Redesigning the office space with physical distancing in mind
No longer will we see clustered workstations or too many people cramped into a tiny office with the need for physical distancing to slow the spread of viruses or diseases. There needs to be a safe six-feet distance between each employee’s workspace. With office desks and workstations getting smaller and smaller over the years, it may be time a good time to replace any old furniture.
3) Prioritizing onsite work and staggering schedules in the office
Most companies will continue to have most of their staff remote work when possible. For those who need to be in the office, employers will need to have a schedule / system in place to limit the amount of people in the shared workspace at any given time and have a designated individual to manage the schedule.
4) Emotional and Mental health cannot be overlooked
While most of the attention has been placed on physical health and safety over the past several months, we simply cannot overlook the importance of people’s emotional and mental health. Employers need to recognize that the fear, stress, and in same cases, the loss that some people may have experienced during this pandemic will not be quickly forgotten and the pandemic will linger among us until a proven vaccine or treatment is available. Extra care and sensitivity towards what employees are going through is needed and be careful when setting expectations.
5) Absenteeism and Sick Days
More than ever before, companies will start to see more and more people using their sick days and should encourage people to use them should there be any signs of illness. To keep the workplace safe, employers must ensure that those who are sick stay at home to avoid spreading any type of virus / disease in the shared workspace.
The actions and considerations above alone is not a cure to COVID-19, but by following these recommendations, employers can create an environment that their employees can feel safe working in and to keep any viruses / diseases away. It is important for everyone to understand that it will take time to adapt to new ways of working and a new workplace, and requires both management and employees’ buy-in to keep the shared workspace healthy and safe.
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