As businesses consider reopening in the midst of the raging COVID-19 pandemic, they have to shoulder the added responsibility of keeping employees safe. While complying with WHO’s health guidelines is a critical part of reopening, they should also think about additional ways to support employees in this uniquely difficult environment. The lockdown hasn’t been easy on anyone, and as the coronavirus fear and anxiety persists, and major aspects of life impacted by the pandemic, here are a few ways you can support employees returning to work.
With most schools and childcare closed, it might not be possible for parents returning to work to arrange care for their children. As an employer, you can offer help in the form of virtual or in-house childcare. While most employees won’t feel comfortable having an outsider watch over their kids at home, those still working from home will appreciate the option of virtual care, where trained babysitters keep their kids entertained on video call in order to provide a distraction-free environment for parents. Even if you can’t offer childcare benefits, the least you can do is to work with parents on flexible scheduling. Allowing for flexible hours may enable a working parent to adjust their working hours with their spouse so that they can look after the kids when they come in to work.
Enhanced Sanitation And Build-Out For Social Distancing
As the lockdown rules continue to lax across most regions of the world, re-opening businesses and public spaces without effective social distancing and preemptive measures can exacerbate the spread of the outbreak. The best way to ensure the safety of employees during reopening is to follow best hygienic practices to contain the spread of the virus.
For starters, you can rearrange furniture and shift the office layout to ensure a distance of 6 feet between employees. If possible, install physical barriers between desks to prevent the transmission of airborne germs. Make sure workspaces, common areas and frequently touched objects are thoroughly cleaned multiple times a day. If possible, provide your employees with facemasks, face shields, and gloves when they come into work.
Place hand sanitizer stations throughout the office and keep disinfectant sprays and wipes in communal areas so that employees can wipe down all commonly used surfaces, such as kitchen appliances, elevator buttons, door handles, and counters. Issue directives and print outs suggesting washing hand techniques, using soap, and maintaining physical distance, and make sure sick employees stay at home. Not to mention, since fever is one of the primary symptoms associated with the novel Coronavirus, make sure to screen employees for abnormal body temperatures at entrance points.
Home Office Allowances
With offices reopening across the country, employees are expected to head back to work after a long staycation. However, small offices with capacity constraints and the inability to offer desk space to all employees with proper social distancing protocols, are making half the workers work from home or even on alternating shifts. However, this means that employees have to put with a less-than-ideal office setup at home for indefinite period, without ergonomic chairs, workstations, computer monitors and other such tools. Relying upon a laptop screen, sitting too long, slouching, and working with the wrong posture can put physical strain on your body and we often hear employees complaining about aches and pains. One way for employers to support the employees working from home is to invest in proper furniture or equipment that will help workers create a permanent home office. Work-from-home equipment, such as a standing desk, an ergonomic chair, or good quality webcams and headphones will make it easier for employees to ease into the transition.
Mental And Emotional Support
The coronavirus crisis has taken a toll on the mental health of everyone. In these tremulous times, your employees may be feeling the brunt of isolation, harboring concerns about contracting the virus, suffering the loss of a loved one, or might be worried sick for their health and financial safety. Pandemics such as the one we are currently grappling with often ignite erratic behavior, anxiety, and fear in the hearts of those cooped up in uncertainty. To help employees cope, employers can consider providing free mental health and wellness services.
In order to support employees struggling with post-pandemic anxiety and stress, employers can consider subsidizing telehealth visits with mental health professionals or web-based meditation classes for employees. It may seem like a big investment but remember that for every dollar you put in towards treating common mental health issues, you earn $4 back in terms of a boost in employee productivity and health.
Adjust Working Conditions For Those Impacted By Coronavirus
Some of your employees may be coming back to work after recuperating from COVID. Remember that as with any other ailment, COVID leaves a person feeling lethargic and downtrodden. Their energy levels could take some time to return to normal, so don’t expect them to fulfil full-time work commitments like before.
Stay considerate and be mindful of the fact that it may not have been easy for them as well. Wherever possible, carry out a health assessment before they return to work to make sure workplace adjustments are made. As a considerate employee, you may want to adjust the type of work required. For instance, if they used to lift heavy weights at work before, shift them to lighter duties for some time. Try to adopt a phased return of workload, working hours, and days, to allow them to return into the team gradually, supporting both the employee and employer. Even better, allow them to work from home for a current nationally recognized post-COVID period, in order to cause less stress and more flexibility within the working day and help them deal with post infection fatigue.