One of the most important responsibilities of any business leader is ensuring that their employees have a safe environment in which to do their work. A safe workspace helps companies protect their most essential assets… that is to say, their people. Additionally, it helps promote employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. Simply put, most employees are going to be more focused on their work when they feel like they are safe and secure.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many workplaces have begun to rethink their approach to employee wellness. As we enter a new year, there are plenty of practical ways in which business leaders and HR teams can make good on their commitment to employee safety.
Start with Physical Safety
Many companies are still encouraging their employees to work remotely. This is generally the best way to guarantee employees are physically safe, and to minimize the spread of COVID or other infectious diseases.
For employees who choose to return to the office, or whose physical presence in the workspace is a necessity, there are some important safety protocols to put into place:
- Set a cleaning schedule. Not only should the office be cleaned multiple times a day, but employees should also know roughly what that cleaning schedule is; this can provide them with some peace of mind about the sanitation level of their physical work environment.
- Make sure you have well-trained cleaners. Either hire a CDC-certified cleaning company, or ensure your in-house janitorial staff is well-versed in current CDC guidelines.
- Invest in employee safety equipment. Hand sanitizer stations and forehead thermometers are among the smartest investments here.
- Create space for social distancing. To promote employee wellbeing, it may be necessary to reconfigure the flow of your office, allowing for more social distancing, or even to purchase some physical buffers and barriers that can be put into place. Plexiglass screens and shields can be especially helpful.
- Clarify company policies. Make sure there is no misunderstanding about company rules and guidelines concerning the use of face coverings, requirements for employees to eat lunch separately, individual responsibilities to keep office equipment clean, etc. These policies should be placed into writing, printed on signage, and verbally communicated by the HR team.
Support Mental Health
In addition to physical safety, employers have a responsibility to provide for the mental health of their employees. There are a number of ways to do this.
- Make sure employees have access to good tech support. Nothing frustrates more than a slow or malfunctioning computer. Be sure employees all know how to obtain the IT support they require to work as productively, and as headache-free, as possible.
- Provide PTO flexibility. One of the best things HR can do to promote employee mental health is to allow some flexibility in when people take time off, whether for vacation, medical needs, or simply for a needed “mental health” break.
- Remind employees of their role and its importance. Another way to promote mental wellbeing is to remind employees of the company mission, and of how their individual role contributes to that mission. Reinforce to employees that they are part of something bigger than themselves, and that their role makes a difference.
- Acknowledge and thank. To support the emotional wellbeing of employees, leaders should be proactive and consistent in acknowledging good work, and voicing their appreciation for employees who show up and work hard each day… even amidst challenging circumstances.
These are just a few steps toward a safer, healthier, more proactive work environment. With any questions about promoting employee wellbeing, particularly in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, feel free to contact WhiteWater Consulting at any time.