As the global business community continues to rebound from the impact of COVID-19, those with physical workspace are examining how to safely reopen while still protecting employees. It’s a common problem with a multitude of solutions that may vary between industries or regions. Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of a return-to-work-safely strategy is the fear some employees may have about leaving the safety of their homes after months of remote work.
IMG’s international security consultant team has asked Robert Soderberg, Vice President of Enterprise Safety and Security for Adtalem Global Education, to share some perspective on this topic.
What are some best practices companies are implementing to help employees through these challenging times?
According to Soderberg, whose experience spans decades in the industry, one of the best ways to support employees is through awareness and education. Whether news of current events or government research, organizations are more likely to instill confidence in employees when they are fully engaged with an issue.
Following any type of disaster or event that impacts employees and business continuity, employees returning to work may benefit from the establishment of certain protocols or guidelines and practical mitigation methods. In the case of COVID-19, for example, employers may wish to establish some accountabilities to help reassure employees as to the safety of their workplace. Organizations might consider providing items such as sanitizer and masks, or spacing desks or workstations differently to help employees maintain physical distance. There are also ways employees can participate to help mitigate transmission risk in the workplace. They could be asked to wear masks when distance is not possible, for example, or to stay home if they have a fever.
Soderberg stressed that every organization and workforce will have its own unique set of needs. In fluid situations like this one, those needs may change along with current events. With no one-size-fits-all solution in existence, said Soderberg, flexibility is a key element in organizational safety planning.
The last point he highlighted is no less critical than awareness and accountability. Communication, according to Soderberg, is an essential factor in supporting employees who are returning to physical workspace. It’s vital, he says, that employees understand their organizations care about them as people. When planning, companies may want to consider the value of two-way communication. Employees should be kept informed of the company’s efforts to mitigate risk in the workplace. Likewise, it may help to ensure employees have a clearly-defined way to communicate any fears, concerns or questions.
As COVID-19 has already demonstrated, when leaders and employees work together towards employee safety it bolsters an organization’s resilience. Focusing on awareness, mitigation and communication for a return-to-work-safely strategy may offer a more positive, engaged experience to employees coming back to physical workspace.
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