As vaccinations continue to roll out and more states are easing their lockdown restrictions, the possibility of onsite work is as likely as ever. And once the transition from remote work begins, businesses and employers alike play a critical role in helping prevent or at least reduce the chances of spreading the virus in the workplace. This includes the preparations, response, and implementation of health and safety protocols inside and outside the workplace to keep employees safe and help them feel more secure while no longer working from home.
Whether your business was at a halt or experienced significant adjustments during the pandemic, it’s important to consider not only the condition of your workplace but also that of your employees, who may be going through individual struggles outside of work. Prepare for the transition back into onsite work and support your employees through the process with these helpful tips.
Educate and Train Employees
Once you’ve gotten past the step of letting your employees know about your plans to return to onsite work, you’re likely to meet concerns and reservations throughout the process. Having spent so long working from the safety of their homes, employees may be reluctant about going back to the office if they’re not sure about what steps your business is taking to keep them safe in the workplace.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to be transparent with what they can expect when they go back to the office, what guidelines they will need to follow, and what steps they must take on their end to stay healthy. In addition to that, you can also consider providing a training program that allows employees to learn about effective procedures, practices, and protocols that can help promote employee health and safety and make the transition back into onsite work easier.
Depending on whether you choose to direct the training program internally or hire a third-party training provider, you can include certain topics into your program, such as:
- The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) while in the workplace;
- Social distancing practices within your office floor plan;
- Reviewing health and safety-related signages around the office;
- Cleaning protocols if you plan on encouraging routine cleaning of each employee’s workspace after a regular workday; and
- How to provide daily health checks in an accurate and routine manner
Convincing your employees to go back to the office will not be an easy feat, but providing training will provide them with the knowledge they need to stay safe and healthy in the workplace.
Enforce Basic Hygiene Practices
One of the best and most effective ways to reduce the transmission and prevent the spread of the virus is by practicing basic hygiene. Gone are the days of having lunch and going back to work without washing your hands or pushing yourself to work despite being sick. Some effective ways of practicing proper hygiene to maintain a safe workplace include:
It’s important to have high-touch areas regularly cleaned and disinfected, as they can be a resting ground for the virus. High-touch areas include office tables, doorknobs, pens, keyboards, toilets, sinks, faucets, phones, handles, and other items that tend to be passed around or touched by many people. Keeping these areas clean can help prevent any chance of transmission.
Consider encouraging employees to clean and disinfect their work areas before leaving the office during the workweek. On the weekends, on the other hand, you can employ a professional cleaning team who can help make sure that the entire office is cleaned and disinfected before the workweek starts again.
It’s also important to remind employees not to share equipment, especially items that contact the mouth or hands, such as keyboards and phones. These safety practices, accompanied by regular handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing, can help employees stay safe in the office.
Encouraging Sick Employees to Stay Home
Before the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon to see sick employees at work. But with symptoms like sneezing or coughing becoming a quick way to contract COVID-19, it’s best to let your employees stay home and work remotely until they’ve fully recovered. This can also be applied during allergy season, where some employees are prone to sneezing and coughing due to the amount of pollen in the air. Consider allowing employees who suffer from this to work remotely as a safety precaution while treating their seasonal allergies.
Implement Additional Safety Measures
To further encourage a safer workplace for employees, employers can also implement more safety measures to ensure that all employees are healthy before setting foot in the office. If you have a small office, allow for more opportunities to distance themselves socially. Consider adding the following safety measures to your business protocols:
- Temperature checks;
- Sanitizing mats outside of the office; and
- Limited capacity for meeting rooms and other common spaces
You can also implement shifting schedules for your employees, especially if there isn’t enough space for your entire workforce to practice social distancing while inside the office.
Provide Mental and Emotional Support
In these uncertain times, mental health is as important as ever. As an employer, it’s part of your responsibility to keep employees happy and productive. You can do this by checking in with your employees regularly, encouraging self-care, and offering telehealth services that allow employees to speak to the appropriate professionals. Supporting your employees in these areas, aside from just financially, will prove beneficial not only to your employees and their well-being but also to your business as employees who feel like they’re cared for by their company are likely to stay with the company for longer.
COVID-19 has changed almost every aspect of our lives, from how we spend our leisure time to the way we work or run a business. However, as a business owner, putting people first should stay at the forefront of your post-pandemic business strategy. Doing so will help your business move forward safely, effectively, and efficiently despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic.