There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the world of work, and once companies start bringing their employees back to the office, it won’t be “business as usual.”
This most likely been one of the toughest times in our lives personally and professionally, and many are feeling overwhelmed. We are dealing with the loss of loved ones, health challenges, layoffs, food and money insecurity, financial hardships, childcare issues, difficult family dynamics, loss of routine, worries about the economy and the financial health of our companies and businesses, mental health issues, and the psychology of social restrictions.
Grief and stress threaten to overwhelm opportunities to re-enter the workplace well. While we don’t know the true length of this crisis or the global impact or ramifications, it’s important for businesses of all sizes to turn their attention toward the future to be better equipped to recognize and solve challenges and come up with a solid strategy to ease office tensions and uncertainties. There are some new realities we would be well served to take into account as we formulate a sensible game plan to prepare ourselves and our team to slowly get back to business operations.
Below are some helpful tips to help you foster a safe and healthy environment for your employees – in and out of the office.
Be human, understanding and empathetic
- At first, you may need to understand that lower productivity may occur because people will not be psychologically themselves right away. They need to recover and re-acquaint themselves with routine, typical “work self”, and their colleagues. Let people spend more time sharing and processing, which means less time at their desks doing actual work – at least for now. You can also conduct regular town hall style meetings with food or even have organic and informal group discussions.
- Circulate and see how people are doing. Some call this Management by Walking Around (MBWA), and it shows employees that you care and keeps you aware of what’s going on in the office. Have organic and informal group discussions to allow people to share their feelings and needs. Don’t be afraid to admit what has been difficult for you personally about reintegration into society as this provides a level of “cohesiveness” with employees.
- Help people understand the fiscal health of the company (how did we do during the crisis? How much business did we gain/lose? What client/partner feedback do we have? Is the company on strong fiscal footing to survive the rest of the year?
Make Sure the Office Space is a Healthy Environment
- Once employees start coming back to work, consider allowing them to work half-days for the first 90 days. Develop a tiered or phased approach that gradually resumes normal business operations. You can also utilize staggered shifts and alternating WFH days to reduce the number of people commuting in peak periods and being and in the office at the same time or in close proximity to each other. A gradual return to the office would help maintain social distancing.
- Ensure your employees that you are doing everything you can to keep everyone safe and healthy. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidance, which says it’s legal for companies to ask employees if they have symptoms of COVID-19, such as a cough or shortness of breath, and to take their temperature. In the near future, companies may also be able to test their employees for COVID-19 once more FDA-approved tests are available at a larger scale.
- Evaluate the possibility of medical providers on-site taking temperatures of employees, contractors, vendors, and visitors and refusing entry to those with elevated temps.
- Have high risk employees, or those with a high risk household members continue to WFH. Also, allow WFH flexibility for associates with health concerns about coming into the offices or customer facilities and keep current international travel restrictions in place.
- Companies may want to reevaluate their office’s air filtration system or even acquire extra air filtration solutions in the short term in an effort to promote healthier air.
Mitigate Workplace Violence
- Share which EAP programs you have to help employees with short and long term needs in the areas of financial counseling, mental health and wellness support, domestic violence resources, and medical resources.
- Consider engaging a part-time onsite psychologist/therapist for employees who need it by discussing workload and overtime expectations with employees.
- Discuss any issues related to layoffs, furloughs or terminations. First decide if this is the right time for discretionary reductions in your workforce. It might be a good idea to re-visit and strengthen your company’s layoff/termination policies in order to mitigate possible incidents of workplace violence.
- Assure employees the company will identify and mitigate elevated physical security threats in the areas of conflict and violence driven by emerging trends such as insider threats, racial tensions, social distancing tensions, domestic violence spillover, domestic terrorism, and even active shooters.
- Remember, there are many resources available to ease stress and anxiety for you and your employees, including mobile apps such as Headspace and Calm, and these helpful tips from the CDC.
Keeping the lines of communication open with your employees and letting them know that you’re doing everything you can to keep them safe and healthy is extra critical during this uncertain time. By creating strategies to help employees transition back to the workplace in a safe manner will help ease some anxieties and fears while building a hopeful, healthy, and prosperous future for us all.
Written by Ty Smith. Have you read? Moldova CIP: Moldova Citizenship By Investment Program, Turkey CIP: Turkey Citizenship By Investment Program, Portugal Golden Visa Program, Dominica Citizenship by Investment Programme