There are many components required for building a healthy workplace culture.
From promoting positive communication practices to encouraging personal growth, business owners and leaders can do quite a lot to create a beneficial working environment. Paying attention to employee safety, health, and emotional wellbeing is just one of those things.
And sure, in the past, safety culture tended to focus on the established practices that would ensure physical protection. However, the COVID-19 pandemic entirely changed the meaning of the words ‘safe and sound.’
The New Risks
As the business world faced a world-stopping virus, there appeared a dilemma. The new illness quickly spread and had severe health consequences. So, business leaders had to decide between keeping their operations shut or going back to work in full swing.
The first option was, naturally, far from perfect. With severe losses reported during the pandemic, very few businesses had the luxury of stopping work. The second, however, came with just as much risk.
Essentially, to ensure employee wellbeing and protection, any company’s safety culture would have to change at its core.
The Available Solutions
Maintaining a safe workplace in a post-COVID-19 world definitely seems challenging. But it’s entirely possible as long as the newfound problems are broken up into bite-sized elements. Unfortunately, there’s no possibility of implementing the necessary changes one by one. What this means is that proper preparation can and will help your team stay safe and healthy when returning to the office.
Are you looking to adapt your workplace safety culture to address the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic? If so, the following are the elementary steps to take.
Acquiring Information & Educating Employees
The first item on your to-do list is to gather relevant information and share it with your employees.
Unfortunately, the internet is ripe with conflicting, even untrue data. So the best thing to do is get your info from reputable sources. The WHO, for example, has a dedicated COVID-19 page. The resource addresses all the relevant questions about the Coronavirus disease. Besides describing the symptoms, it also provides some elementary preventative measures.
In addition to educating yourself, it is highly recommended that you share official information with your employees to ensure that they’re fully aware of the risks. In doing this, you will all be able to work together to keep the workplace as safe as possible.
Adapting the Workspace
The second step of adapting your company’s safety culture to new requirements will be to make any necessary changes to the space from which your business operates.
Generally, the advice is to practice social distancing as much as possible. For employers, this might mean making physical adaptations. Move work desks further apart, add physical barriers, or provide additional equipment. This way, employees won’t have to share or be in close contact with each other.
It’s also not a bad idea to add signage to the office– helping employees stick to the prescribed precautions. Mark six-foot distances, display the number of people allowed in a room, and/or add any other necessary visual cues. These will be welcome reminders of how to behave in shared spaces.
Furthermore, ensure that all needed PPE is available. Naturally, you will have to enforce its use during work hours.
Encouraging WFH When Possible
Not all companies can operate with a WFH model. Still, those that can should certainly enforce it. After all, remote work has been shown to offer many benefits to employee productivity and wellbeing. So why not make it part of your safety culture?
Even a once or twice per week WFH schedule can help your employees avoid unnecessary exposure. Moreover, a slight change in routine may help them establish a better work-life balance. This will inevitably have a positive effect on their overall health.
Of course, there will be workers who don’t have the conditions or don’t want to work from home. In this case, as a leader, you should provide them with the possibility of coming into the office without having to worry about safety.
Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health
One of the most overlooked consequences of living and working in a worldwide pandemic is that it takes its toll on everyone’s emotional wellbeing.
To protect your employees (and, by proxy, your business), try to address your employees’ reservations about returning to work. Support their self-care both with benefits and health-oriented programs, and practice open communication. Something as simple as holding regular one-on-one meetings can significantly improve the support you’re offering through this difficult time.
It’s also not a bad idea to seek out specialist advice. If you have an HR team on hand, employ them in coming up with the best solutions. The idea is to nurture emotional wellbeing in the workplace after COVID.
If, however, you’re a small business, it’s not a bad idea to consult with a specialist. They’ll be able to help you come up with the best plan to ensure your team’s health.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been going on for over a year now, and it’s necessary to understand that it’s still not over. With infection rates being high globally, employers need to make a continuous effort to protect their workers.
With this in mind, a workplace safety culture that takes preventative measures and keeps up to date with the latest development is of great importance. When returning to the workplace, consider both physical and emotional wellbeing. Communicate with your workers. By taking the time to educate, support, and reassure them, you’ll have done a great deal to ensure their safety in these trying circumstances.
Featured Image Credit: Unsplash
Sarah Kaminski is a freelance writer and social media marketer. She works with a number of small businesses to build their brands through more engaging marketing and content.