The COVID-19 health crisis has now brought added value and increased vulnerability to physical spaces and the physical proximity we share. While Work From Home (WFH) continues to be the dominant trend across industries, the ideas around "returning to work” are constantly evolving. From mandated social distancing guidelines to a lower frequency of attending office, the way back to re-entering the workplace poses various challenges.
Planning for the new normal
While it is widely acknowledged that there are challenges in store for the future of the corporate workplace, this once-in-a-generation experience is also filled with opportunities to reframe old rules and create a new, better normal for organizations around the globe.
The following are a few tips on how to secure the workplace in the new normal.
Controlled attendance for added safety: According to research conducted by JLL, three out of four companies reported that more than 80% of their teams are still working from home. This means that while government rules and restrictions may have allowed for re-opening office spaces, a sizable proportion of employees are more comfortable with remote work due to the concerns over safety in a closed and densely packed environment like an office building.
To counteract this apprehension, HR managers can implement a staggered attendance policy, where there is a limit to the maximum number of employees who are present at work on a given day, alleviating concerns over potential infection and other health risks.
Clearly displaying safety and health information: HR managers must be prepared for a more concerned workforce, who will expect consistent assurance of working in a health-focused environment. To help employees feel safer, the office space can include clear documentation of updated safety and health protocols, along with health resources for team members and visitors throughout the workplace.
Having clearly defined and displayed safety information goes a long way in ensuring employee trust and reducing health related anxiety.
Accounting for employee concerns proactively: Engaging with all employees while planning to return to the workplace will pay off in a highly motivated workforce as well.
A preliminary questionnaire of employee-generated needs and protocols may help plan for a better back to work checklist to coordinate the reopening process of the workplace as well.
Improved sanitation and hygiene: Along with social distancing norms and staggered attendance policies, an increased focus on workplace sanitation, maintenance and hygiene protocols can help keep staff members healthy and productive on a sustainable basis.
No matter the additional cost of manpower required for sanitation, this can help pay back dividends in employee satisfaction and a healthy workforce, adding to the overall productivity of the organisation.
A good wellness plan with regularly scheduled AHCs has the following benefits for the organisation:
Annual Health Checks: The pandemic raised employees’ awareness to the importance of their health and wellbeing, and HR managers can help address this with Annual Health Checks (AHCs) for all employees across the organisation. One of the simplest ways to manage the well-being of team members is by tracking their health on a regular basis. This can be achieved by choosing a wellness plan that incorporates medical check-ups and doctor consultations on a regular basis with AHCs. Annual Health Checks are a valuable way for organisations to improve employee trust as well.
- Reduced chances of absenteeism due to ill-health
- Higher levels of employee satisfaction due to good health
- Improved staff morale and loyalty to the organisation
- Increase in overall organisational productivity
HR managers are likely to face various challenges in the post-COVID workplace with regard to health concerns and a general sense of uneasiness among their team members. However, the tips mentioned here are a good place to start when planning a strategy to reopen the workplaces for employees to return to work. The implications of the pandemic on employee health and organisational productivity will become apparent as the corporate world returns to normal, and the challenges of today will serve as lessons for a better future for corporations around the world.
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