Getting Ahead: 3 Ways to Prepare Your Employees for the Coronavirus Era Workplace
Once you have established a COVID-19 return-to-the-workplace plan, and you have taken measures to prepare your workplace, it's important to establish a communications and training plan to prepare your employees for their "new" working environment.
Employees returning onsite will likely be concerned about being exposed to, or infected by, COVID-19 and bringing it home to family members. These concerns should be addressed directly through frequent communications and by sharing the precautions your organisation is implementing to keep them safe.
Here are three ways to help ease your employees' anxieties:
What, how, and when you communicate will be critical to creating and maintaining a safe work environment for employees. Consider sharing in advance your return to the workplace plan or playbook, what your organisation is doing to keep employees safe, and the role employees play in maintaining a safe work environment.
Ongoing communications may consist of signs, videos, text messages, emails, newsletters, toolbox talks, and/or other media. While you will likely use general messaging for the broader employee group, consider whether you should also develop segmented and tailored messaging for any specific subsets of your employees who may need additional, more detailed information based on their role. Your team should also determine the frequency of communications for specific topics to ensure an appropriate cadence.
For example, to help mitigate COVID-19 transmission, your organisation will likely increase its housekeeping practices, including more frequent cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment. Share these practices with your employees as well as any updates made to your housekeeping plan. Transparency regarding your organisation's new guidelines for sanitisation and regular updates will aid in bolstering employee confidence.
Create a Feedback Loop
Raising employee awareness of the organisation's COVID-19 response is a fundamental element of your return-to-the-workplace plan. However, it is not enough to just explain entry requirements for employees and visitors or advise on training plans. Your organisation should also consider facilitating an avenue for employees to provide feedback and ask questions using such means as surveys and regular team check-ins.
The potential risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace could be a distraction, but it can be mitigated through frequent communications and information. Your return-to-the-workplace orientation should reaffirm the organisation's concern for employee safety and welfare and review any key safety hazards inherent in any new operations. This will increase employee confidence and serve as a means of re-establishing the organisation's emphasis on occupational safety.
Employees will experience a completely new working environment and be expected to adhere to new policies and procedures to help keep the workplace safe for all. Below are some training curriculum topics your organisation should take into account as you bring employees back to the workplace. Consider making these trainings mandatory.
- COVID-19 Training
- General information about the COVID-19 virus.
- Explanation on how COVID-19 spreads.
- Symptoms of COVID-19.
- What to do if you feel ill, whether at work or at home.
- Reinforcement/encouragement to stay home if sick.
- General information on reporting suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, and how that information will be handled by the organisation, including the level of detail potentially disclosed to other workers.
- Employee Safety Training
- Physical distancing and contact reduction "how-to."
- General information on personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
- Importance of frequent and thorough handwashing.
- Information on contact tracing (if available).
- Workplace Training
- Guidance on work-related travel and interactions with clients, customers, and vendors.
- Possible restrictions on workforce shifts due to curfew orders or other government regulations.
- Considerations for the transportation of employees to and from work.
- Any changes in the employee benefits package, such as an increase in the number of days for paid sick leave.
- Discouragement of using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.
Whether you are currently developing a return-to-the-workplace plan for your organisation or looking for information on how to improve it, download our comprehensive and free Employer's Guide to Returning People to the Workplace Safely. In it, you will find actionable information and helpful resources to help bring your people back to the workplace safely.