As business owners consider the long and challenging process of re-opening in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a central question that must be addressed: How can we begin growing the economy, and resuming some semblance of normal productivity, while still promoting the health and safety of employees?
It’s a question that may not have an easy answer, and yet one thing is clear: Prioritizing workplace safety is very much the right thing for business leaders to do. It’s the right thing ethically, it’s what’s best for employee morale, and it’s really the only way to sustain business growth in the long run.
While many employers may have outstanding questions about how they can build safe workplaces, and while there may not be any “perfect” solution, there are a few guidelines that should be taken seriously.
Creating Safe Workplaces Post-COVID-19
Some of these recommendations include:
- Create a culture that is more fluid and permissive with regard to remote work. One of the best ways to minimize exposure to coronavirus, and to provide employees with the freedom to make their own healthy decisions, is to create a culture in which working remotely is permitted as much as possible. While some positions or projects may require employees to be physically present in the workplace, employers should make it clear that employees have some flexibility to perform their work from home whenever it makes sense to do so. (This also means implementing a technological infrastructure that facilitates remote productivity and collaboration, something most companies have invested in during the quarantine.)
- Change your workflows. It’s also important to minimize contact between workers, and to ensure that if an employee can safely do their job alone or with just one other person, that they have the space to do so. Business owners and HR teams are encouraged to be creative in reconfiguring their existing facilities, using break rooms, closets, or unused offices to provide a little extra workspace for employees. If you have workers who are not able to maintain the recommended physical distance, ensure there is a sanitized, impervious barrier between them.
- Limit exposure between team members and customers/clients. During the quarantine, many businesses have shown their resourcefulness by implementing “no contact” delivery, curbside pickup, and similar solutions. Maintaining these provisions can be a good way to protect not only the customer, but also your team members.
- Continue providing hand sanitizer to workers. Advise frequent hand washing, and make sure that employees have both the time and the physical access to wash and sanitize as needed.
- Don’t overburden your cleaning staff. Maintaining a sanitary workplace is naturally going to require a more frequent application of disinfectant, as well as rigorous standards of workplace cleanliness. This may be a significant burden placed on the cleaning staff, so support them as best you can with additional staffing or by asking your other team members to help with some of the cleaning work.
- If you know there is a risk of infection, supply employees with PPE. In some office environments, it will be a necessity to keep masks and gloves on hand at all times, ensuring that your employees know their wellbeing is a foremost concern.
- Be attentive to mental health. As employees return to work after the quarantine, many of them will struggle with anxiety, uncertainty, and other mental health conditions. Make sure your people are all aware of the mental health resources available to them. And, as best you can, be flexible in allowing your team members “mental health breaks” and leave.
In the coming months, business owners will be figuring out how to adapt to a new normal, and much of it will be through trial and error. Throughout the process, ensure that employee wellbeing is your North Star.
With questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at WhiteWater Consulting.