With states loosening their stay-at-home orders and people returning to their workplaces, people are understandably concerned about the environment they’re returning to. Some may be looking forward to returning to a regular routine, and seeing their coworkers in person again, even if from six feet away. Some are dreading it, afraid of being exposed and getting sick from others at work, and fear of commuting on crowded public transportation.
For a company to be able to return to pre-pandemic productivity levels and ensure their employees can focus on their jobs, there are factors that need to be brought into consideration.
Put your employees’ safety first
This is a time to be empathetic to the stress factors people have been living with daily since the countrywide workplace shutdowns began. Employees need to be reassured that their safety is a top priority. Their health and wellbeing mean more than just a sanitary workspace.
As a company, showing that you’re willing to take their physical, as well as psychological needs into consideration will instill more confidence and allow them to focus on the work they need to accomplish.
Ask for input
Because different people have varying feelings about COVID, ask for input on what changes will help people feel more comfortable. Normally keeping politics out of business conversation is an accepted practice, yet this pandemic is also dividing people in their beliefs. Consider ways to honor a new level of “diversity” in thoughts and feelings around COVID, its impact, and precautions.
Don’t make assumptions about how employees feel about returning to work.
Train your management teams on how to support employees
The upheaval of COVID-19 has upset the norms all around us and affects each person uniquely. Managers need to be willing to take responsibility for employees’ mental and physical wellbeing while they are on the clock. Being able to recognize when someone on your team is having a hard day is no longer enough. Management must be able to make time to connect with each person and be able to recognize when they are needing support.
With the lockdown and subsequent restrictions, many people feel like they don’t have as much of a support network, especially face-to-face. Encourage your employees to reach out to one another to reconnect virtually or physically, while maintaining a six-foot distance.
Respect local restrictions and public health regulations
News alerts from public health experts such as the Center for Disease Control are updated frequently. Likewise, speedy adjustments in accord with the announcements can reassure each employee as they return to the public workplace that you are staying informed of the most up-to-date information.
Let teams know about the measures taken to make sure their return is a safe one. It is important to make sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize work areas, encourage ill employees to stay home (with improved sick leave policies), to require them to wash their hands multiple times a day, and provide Personal Protective Equipment for each worker.
It is also important to make a habit of screening all employees before they come in for their shift, checking on symptoms and possible fevers, to make sure to protect the rest of the staff. Employees need to be notified of steps to keep them safe, and encouraged to self-monitor, knowing that the restrictions will be enforced according to the current protocol.
For many businesses, they’ve had to ask themselves, “Is our industry adaptable to the current world environment?” Encourage leadership to consider allowing some remote work roles, when possible. Doing so will ensure that fewer people risk their health in order to continue in their jobs. Many adjustments could be made in this way by also considering more flexible schedules, when applicable.
Considering all the options to show your employees that they are in a caring, ethical, safe environment will make all the difference in the current circumstances. People who work for a company that they see making efforts to keep them happy and healthy will remember these efforts. They also will become more productive, loyal, and satisfied with their careers, and be a benefit to everyone there.
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