A Guest Post by Noah Rue
Today’s employers are becoming increasingly worried about the various business impacts presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At the forefront of many of these concerns is the potentially dangerous consequences associated with loosening restrictions and encouraging employees to resume their daily activities too quickly.
In the wake of the recent spread of coronavirus, many local and national governments have put in place suggested and mandatory protective measures, including those affecting workplaces, to stop the spread of the disease. In one way or another, nearly all businesses have been impacted during this crisis. Now, each one has an important role to play when protecting the personal wellness of employees, their families, and the community as a whole as restrictions are lifted.
In order to achieve this properly, organizations need to take a progressive and balanced approach when resuming normal business activities while ensuring the best practices for the safety and security of their workforce. Here are four practical steps organizations can follow when protecting their employees’ health, now and in the future.
1. Enforce New Safety Precautions in the Workplace
Implementing safe working practices that prevent unnecessary exposure to illness and disease first requires a comprehensive assessment of facility-associated health risks. After a thorough examination of the location and facility used to run a business, employers should place various safety control measures in place to reduce their risk profile. This can include the introduction of personal face masks, protective eye equipment to defend from UV lighting when working outdoors, as well as new policies on how facilities will operate during a pandemic.
Here are a few examples of basic control measures that organizations can implement as they resume operations:
- Reduce operational output to mission-critical tasks only.
- Flush and replacing facility water sources.
- Limit physical contact between workers by reducing meeting frequencies and coordinating employee break times.
- Eliminate physical interaction with and between customers. This includes implementing remote working arrangements, switching to phone- or online-only ordering systems, and establishing contactless parcel or food delivery services.
- Encourage employees to stay home when ill or when they are presenting cold-like symptoms.
- Urge employees to limit their use of public transit.
2. Support Employees’ Emotional Well-Being
Beyond all of the physical protection measures put in place, employees should know where to go to get guidance and support for their emotional well-being. Considering the mental toll the pandemic has taken on everyone, it’s crucial to maintain open channels of communication to know how employees are feeling and adjusting to their new working arrangements. Depending on the organization’s size, individual businesses can implement corporate wellness programs, allowing them to develop in-house channels to respond to employee questions, feedback, or concerns promptly.
3. Consider Providing Additional Sick Days
Everyone in the workplace must understand that even mild symptoms such as a cough or a slight fever mean they need to stay at home. This message should be strongly reinforced, and wherever reasonable, actively supported.
One way to build a positive company culture and show support for employees adopting a more cautious attitude when attending their work is to extend the paid coverage of sick leave. Workers should be guaranteed that their pay will be kept whole in case of absence due to illness. Doing this can significantly reduce the risk of spreading any diseases to other employees and impacting other areas of the business.
4. Establish Remote Working Arrangements
While creating new safety precautions for employees while they’re in the office is essential, one of the primary ways to reduce the risk of spreading illness is by reducing the staff count in centralized areas. One effective way to manage this is to establish more remote working arrangements.
Many businesses have already experienced the financial benefits of having a predominantly remote workforce; however, there are also many health and safety benefits associated with this arrangement. While some home environments may not be suitable for all areas of work, establishing policies and procedures to allow remote working whenever reasonable can be another big step towards protecting the entire organization’s overall health.
Occupational health and safety are vital now more than ever. By implementing these preventative measures and providing practical support for employees in the workplace, employers can reduce the transmission of illnesses and create a safe and sustainable working environment in the future.