Covid-19 has changed working practices across the globe and as we work through the darker winter months, it’s believed that people may be more susceptible to infection. This, combined with the ongoing need to motivate and empower staff, will present new challenges – and opportunities – for employers to retain a happy, healthy workforce.
Private coronavirus PCR testing specialists Medicspot work with a variety of employers spanning businesses of all shapes and sizes to provide practical advice for keeping staff safe, as well as motivated and willing to work where they can.
Implement social distancing
The current UK government guidance is that people should work from home if they reasonably can. However, where this isn’t possible, there is advice on how social distancing can function in the workplace. This includes, but is by no means limited to:
- Marking out 2-metre (or larger) areas on floorspaces for workers and/or customers or service users to stand or sit within
- Reducing the numbers of workers on-site to ensure workspaces can be sufficiently spaced apart
- Implementing protective screens between workers where spacing isn’t an option
- Seating employees back-to-back or side-to-side rather than facing each other
- Staggering working hours or days to reduce in-person contact.
Employees may have their own ideas or requirements for social distancing and so if they request anything specific, this should be met where reasonable. Showing flexibility toward people’s individual personal standards and what makes them feel safe demonstrates a commitment to not just their safety as an employee, but their wellbeing as an individual. Get creative if you have to and encourage your workforce to contribute their own ideas toward safe working spaces.
Require the use of PPE
Face masks should be worn in any indoors work setting where reasonable, and especially in areas where employees will come into contact with other people. Other than for eating and drinking, face masks should be worn by all unless an individual is medically exempt.
Whilst face masks are not a legal obligation in all workplaces, they are recommended. They should not replace any existing PPE that is worn, but instead act as an additional protective measure. If employees show resistance to the use of face masks or you find that people forget to bring adequate protection to the workplace, consider offering branded masks or other PPE. Items can be bought in bulk and if any employee is unable to provide their own, they should be given sufficient protection by their employer. For any staff members who have an exemption and are unable to wear a facial covering, support them as best possible – and ask them how and what they’d like to make them feel safer.
Encourage regular testing
Anyone displaying one of the main symptoms of coronavirus should not come into work and should get tested immediately; only returning upon receipt of a negative test result or a sufficient self-isolation period. However, tests on the NHS should only be sought if someone genuinely believes they may have Covid-19.
If there are no ways to limit employees interacting face-to-face completely, private PCR (polymerise chain reaction) tests can be purchased to give employers and employees peace of mind. These tests are less invasive than the NHS tests and can be done by the employee themselves through a swab in the throat or nose before being processed by a clinic. These tests are the same as the self-swab testing processes undergone regularly by medical staff and can produce a result within 24-72 hours.
Maintain open and honest communication
These are, as you’ll have undoubtedly read in numerous articles, ‘unprecedented times’, and it’s only natural that employees will be feeling anxiety and stress that they may not experience usually. Now is the time to ensure that your staff are feeling positive and well mentally as well as physically – even if they’re working remotely and you don’t see them face-to-face.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on business is well documented and, as a result, many people are fearing for their jobs. In order to best keep your employees feeling confident in their role and valued by your business, it is best to keep communication channels open, honest and clear, and ensure that employees know they can establish contact with their manage or appropriate colleague whenever they want to chat. Regular ‘check-ins’ to see how staff are doing and to keep comms open will help boost staff morale, monitor performance and encourage increased productivity even in difficult remote working situations.
Show the human touch
In many workplaces, the manager-employee connection is quite formal but that’s not to say this needs to be the case. Managers admitting vulnerability and staying honest with how the business is doing (and how they are) can help build relationships and forge trust. This can be done whilst still maintaining professional boundaries but demonstrates a commitment to employee wellbeing. Workplace practices have already evolved considerably, particularly with remote working, so offering some real, human connection can help improve mood and provide reassurance. After all, most businesses do have exclusively human employees!
Consider convening staff for social activities on video platforms, having an open discussion forum such as Slack available for all, and ensuring that every employee knows how and when they can approach another member of staff for a confidential chat whenever they feel they need one – whether about work or anything else. These are tough times for everyone, and showing a little extra effort will always be welcomed.
Just one thing is for sure through the ongoing pandemic – and that is that your staff matter. Making people your priority and providing them with the right safety measures, a trusting safe space and the flexibility to work differently as and when needed, businesses will be able to retain their talent and steer their ship safely through these tumultuous times. No company will be able to survive without their staff on-board, so adapt, equip, and empower; your employees, your customers, and your bottom line will all thank you for it.