Returning to Work Safely: Three Key Strategies to Establish Trust
By Jillian Evans
June 12, 2020
As many states continue to ease lockdown restrictions, millions of Americans are returning to work. If your business is in in the process of reopening, you’ve no doubt been considering a range of possibilities. Should you reopen in phases? Install hands-free light switches? Require — and provide — Personal Protection Equipment to all staff?
If your workplace is an office, should you close down shared kitchens? Eliminate hot desks? Re-draw the floor plan? Require employees to alternate days or weeks in the office with working from home?
These considerations are top of mind for many companies right now. As workplaces continue to reopen, we’re beginning to see some best practices emerge. For instance, some companies are supplying “return to work” kits to their employees — these might include disposable gloves, face masks and sanitizing products, as well as a set of company-specific guidelines. Others have been installing antimicrobial adhesives and mats in high-traffic areas, upgrading HVAC systems and replacing door locks with access-control systems.
Essential businesses that remained open throughout the lockdown are making similar decisions, upgrading facilities on the fly and adapting to an ever-evolving environment. Whether your workplace is weighing how to reopen or has been operational throughout, your greatest concern is no doubt the well-being of your employees — physical, emotional and mental.
In preparing to return to work, many employees express feelings of apprehension and uncertainty. “Some Americans fear they will be returning to workplaces with potentially inadequate safety precautions in place to protect themselves,” ABC News reports. These concerns are legitimate — we are experiencing an unprecedented, once-in-a-century event with a significant death toll. So how can companies best address concerns, gather feedback and help employees feel more at ease during this transition?
Here at LivMote, we’ve identified three main strategies to allay fears, promote employee well-being and ensure that the transition back to work is as smooth as possible.
1. Clear Communication. In the current environment, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends communicating frequently with employees. “Lack of information can make some employees feel the employer has something to hide or isn’t taking the situation seriously.”
- Easily accessible, clearly communicated information is crucial to ensuring everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect.
- Communication is a two-way street. Taking time to listen to employees’ concerns is just as important, the SHRM notes: “Let employees know their concerns are normal, and the employer wants to hear them.”
- Consider providing a channel where concerns can be submitted anonymously, as some may be afraid to speak up.
2. Accessible Plans and Protocols. Every new operating procedure, workplace layout, guideline and contingency plan must be clearly outlined and easily accessible to all staff.
- How are employees expected to move around the workplace — are any corridors marked as one-way?
- How many people can be in a lunch area or restroom at one time?
- How are visitors or customers being admitted into the workplace?
- What is the protocol if someone experiences symptoms at work?
Digital copies of documents clearly outlining these guidelines should be accessible at all times via a shared drive, so that employees can consult them as needed. Justifications for such guidelines should be provided, as should the process by which they were determined: transparency, transparency, transparency.
3. Clear Visuals to Bolster Psychological Safety. It’s not enough to communicate new guidelines and protocols — employees must be able to see the evidence themselves. Consider visually displaying dates and times when workstations and common areas were last cleaned. “This provides employees with psychological safety as they see a visual of the ongoing work to keep the workplace safe,” say Colette Temmink and Joe Du Bey of Eden, a workplace management platform. Visual evidence of other new safety measures helps reassure employees that the aforementioned commitments are being honored, and helps ease the collective psyche.
Touchless solutions that automate screening questions and conduct PPE and temperature checks serve a similar purpose. Not only do they provide an added sense of safety and security, but they help employers remain compliant with state, local and federal requirements without compromising privacy or data security. And, best of all, they instantly identify one of the most common[i] early symptoms of COVID-19: fever. Empowering employees and visitors to enter the workplace safely is good for their peace of mind — and yours as an employer — whether at a store, restaurant, senior care facility or health clinic.
Our mission at LivMote is to help you keep safe without slowing down. As we all embark on this next phase of the journey, we hope these strategies can help you to allay fears and keep everyone engaged, happy and productive. We’d love to hear about how you’re putting these guidelines into practice, or any suggestions you might have for us. We’ll get through this together by staying positive, sharing best practices and looking out for one another.
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[i] According to a World Health Organization study of 55,924 confirmed cases, 87.9% of patients had a fever, roughly in line with the CDC estimate of 83 to 99%. In another study, fever was almost always the first symptom to develop.