As the COVID-19 pandemic has seemingly reached its peak, many businesses are reopening, and employees are returning to work. While that may be a good thing for many people, the fact remains that the coronavirus is still here, and some workers may feel apprehensive or fearful of going back to their jobs. If your company has reopened or is looking to do so, then you need to make the proper precautions, especially when it comes to their mental health.
It is important to have employees who feel safe and happy when they are at work. When employees are content at their jobs, they are more productive, and your business runs more smoothly. You will face a lot of new challenges as your business opens up, let’s look at how to handle them.
Understanding Employee Feelings
Everyone is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in their own way, and as managers, it is your responsibility to be there when employees need to talk to you, and then provide the best solution. There are many different feelings in the mix here. Some employees may be fearful that going back out into public can lead to them contracting the coronavirus. Others may be stressed out when thinking about the many factors associated with a global pandemic and the constant changes we are all facing.
As a manager, you need to listen to and tackle these different types of feelings and respond accordingly. You can assist those who feel fear by constantly communicating about the safety precautions that your company is taking and you should do so even before the employees return to the office. Mention the social distancing protocols you are making, whether or not you will require customers to wear masks, and any other precautions you are taking.
Continue these communications even after the employees have returned to the office and don’t keep anyone out of the loop. Allow the workers to give their feedback and suggestions for safer work conditions. Follow in the footsteps of Google and provide opportunities for employees to reach out however they can, whether in person or via a video conference. Members of management probably have many of the same feelings, so communicate that you are all on the same page and in this together. On top of all that, acknowledge employees who contribute great safety solutions and excel in their jobs during these difficult times. Offer plenty of praise because now more than ever, the staff needs to know that you have their back; trust is key to effective leadership.
Remember that there are no wrong emotions to have during these troubling times, and if an employee says they just aren’t ready to return, then they do have options. If they have a family member who has been affected or has passed away due to COVID-19, allow them to take bereavement time according to the policies in your Human Resources guidebook. If the worker or a close family member comes down with the virus, then the employee may be able to take a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Management should take the time to investigate these options so all your employees know that you have their back.
Although your plans may be in place to return to the office, some employees may not be mentally ready to get back out there, and you have to respect that. If your staff was already working from home and one requests to continue to do so until they feel safe, find a way to work that out with the team. Many tools can make the remote worker just as ready for business as your in-house staff. Video conferencing apps can help you stay connected and e-signatures built on digital signature technology make official paperwork just as legal as physical copies.
Your company may have to also consider switching up the shifts that you had before the pandemic. If you have a warehouse or an open-office setting where a lot of people are working at once, then you may have to create second and third shifts, so fewer employees are working at any given time. If you have the ability, make narrow hallways one-way, so coworkers can keep their distance.
Follow CDC Guidelines
When setting up the office for the return of your employees, it is best to follow the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control to ensure the safest environment possible.
- Decide right away if you are going to require employees and customers to wear masks.
- For the safety of your workers, if you are requiring customers to wear a mask, put a sign at the front door so there is no confusion.
- Put markings on the ground to encourage social distancing.
Offices should be kept orderly and sanitized at all times with work stations and public areas thoroughly cleaned every night and throughout the day if and when possible. In addition:
- All bathroom soap dispensers need to be filled accordingly.
- Hand sanitizer stations should be placed throughout the office.
- Use disinfectants that are recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, such as Clorox Bleach and Lysol wipes.
Most importantly, if anyone feels like they are sick with coronavirus or any other ailment, separate them from the group and send them home until cleared by a doctor. You do not want your employees to feel like they have to work even when they are sick because they won’t believe that the company has their best interests at heart. Once the employee leaves, make sure to clean their work area so any germs cannot spread.
The importance of mental health cannot be understated, especially during these strange times. Put your employees first, and your company will get through this together.
About the author
Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer that lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to good health, balanced life, and better living through technology. When not writing, her free time is spent reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings.