Many businesses are now returning to work onsite after weeks or months of working remotely. Even as the lockdown orders end and workers return to “normal”, however, it should be acknowledged that the world has shifted in the last few months. This means that we now view things differently, and as such your team may be feeling more anxious, more concerned and more conscious of health risks. Additionally, in most communities COVID-19 is still very much present, and so the need to protect ourselves continued.
It is therefore essential that businesses take special steps to not only protect their employees’ health and safety, but also to make sure that their team feels safe psychologically as the business reopens. This is not only important for the perspective of duty of care, but is also in the business’ best interest to ensure that workers are present, focused and productive.
- Allow Flexible Work Arrangements
Even as business reopen and workers return to the workplace, there are many employees that do not necessarily need to be onsite all of the time in order to do their job. This is not possible for everyone, however, if you have team members that can work from home part or all of the time you should give them this option.
Doing so will empower your employees to have control over decisions not only effecting their work, but their health. This means that you are allowing them to protect their own health and safety as they see fit, and make their own decisions in order to keep well. This will go a long way to helping them feel psychologically safe.
- Have Open Discussions
An important part of any healthy and productive workplace is open discussions. In this time of change and uncertainty, having open discussions among your team can go a long way to making people feel psychologically safe. This is because they will feel invested and part of the process, rather than subject to decisions that they have no influence over.
Invite your team to have open discussions about the current situation, risks and proposed new processes. Invite them to raise their concerns, make comments and ask questions and be sure to listen carefully and address any concerns. If your employees are reluctant to speak up, facilitate discussions with direct questions.
- Step Up Health & Hygiene Practices
Workplace hygiene standards are critical at any time, and now more than ever. Whether your business interfaces with the public or not, adequate hygiene and safety measures need to be put in place to make sure that infections are not passed internally between your team, as well as anyone else who visits the workplace. Make sure to check official guidelines of suggested processes and systems you can implement to ensure proper hygiene and protect your teams’ safety. Furthermore, having proper processes in place and communicating these to your staff will mean they know they are well protected.
Along with thorough and regular cleaning, this should include protocols for when employees are sick. You should make sure that your workers do not come to work if they have any symptoms, but stay at home in isolation. Also make sure your employees are following recommended hand washing, social distancing and respiratory hygiene guidelines. This should involve comprehensive training of your team and reinforcement such as through signage in the workplace.
- Communicate Policies and Processes
As mentioned, it is important that you not only implement the right policies and procedures to keep your employees safe, but also that you communicate these thoroughly. By explaining exactly what you are doing, this will mean that your team feel reassured and safe as your business reopens.
Additionally, it is critical that you explain the reasoning behind the policies that your business is implementing. This not only helps your employees to have a greater understanding of the measures, but it also means that they are more likely to follow the rules. One of the greatest threats to health and safety in the workplace is workers cutting corners that put themselves and their colleagues at risk. However, if your team understands why they need to do certain things and why it is important, they are more likely to comply.
- Provide Strong Leadership
Team members look to their leaders at all times, but especially during times of crisis. Now more than ever, it is important to provide strong leadership that will reassure your employees and make them feel psychologically safe as your business reopens. Acknowledge that things are not returning to “normal” but rather a new way of working. Implement new policies and procedure, and effectively communicate them to all levels of your organisation. Most importantly, lead by example and make sure to follow all guidelines exactly. You cannot expect your employees to do something you are not prepared to do yourself!