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The impact and economic disruption caused by COVID-19 since March 2020 led to significant changes in how employers manage their operations and workforce. Business owners (from small start-ups to those with employees that number into the tens of thousands) have been forced to make difficult decisions with potentially long-lasting effects due to stay-at-home orders, non-essential business closure, reduced work hours, furloughs, lost business and income, and employees scattered from house to house working remotely.
Just as many employers (and employees) have settled into adjusted work styles and habits, the latest disruption is here: employees are needed back at work.
This seems simple at first glance, but bringing employees back into the workplace can be overwhelming. COVID-19 has resulted in new and complex federal laws protecting employees, fluid state mandates and guidelines affecting how businesses re-open, and financial considerations that prove challenging to even the savviest business owner.
Before opening the doors and having an office full of confused workers clock in, employers should take some time to understand the big picture: things have changed.
Employers should take some time to understand the big picture: things have changed.
As states begin to loosen stay-at-home orders, it is evident that activity is picking up. However, the rush to return seems a bit more restrained than expected. Many patrons are still leery about being in close contact, and businesses are still operating with reduced staff. Employees who lost their jobs are beginning to look for work while many of those fortunate enough to have kept their jobs are still working from home. It’s different.
As a result of COVID-19, employers are being faced with startling new challenges and employee concerns:
Clearly, it’s not business as usual, and may not be for quite some time. Employers need to understand what’s behind these concerns and develop a plan to get employees fully working again. It might just mean that business looks a little unusual.
So, how do employers manage employee concerns responsibly AND bring back their staff so business can re-start?
Begin by understanding employee concerns and acting responsibly. According to global consulting research, Mercer’s COVID-19 survey reflects that 45% of essential employers have had issues with employees not coming to work out of fear of getting sick. The percentage is higher in certain industries where the risk of exposure is greatest.
Take a sincere interest in understanding their fears: Have other employees in the company tested positive for COVID-19 at any point? Does your business pose a higher risk to employees because of what you do?
A comprehensive Return-to-Work (RTW) plan should include the following as part of a responsive strategy:
There is no one-size-fits-all playbook to provide the best answer, but employers should consider the above items in addition to industry-specific matters and recommendations from qualified governmental and other resources as part of an overall RTW strategy.
Using varied tools and techniques, RTW training can be disseminated to your workforce prior to their return date or even after they have returned to refresh and reinforce. Consider one or a combination of methods such as:
Regardless of the method you decide to use, be sure to prioritize communication and sincere interest in getting employees back to work with as much stability as possible to responsibly address fears and concerns, and adequately respond to employee needs.
45% of essential employers have had issues with employees not coming to work out of fear of getting sick.
We understand that this Return-to-Work phase will look different for your organization from your pre-COVID-19 operation. P&N can help you prepare for the employee re-entry process and navigate related workforce challenges. Our team will meet with you to understand the unique issues your organization faces in returning employees back into the workplace, including specific issues as appropriate to your organization and industry. Contact us to schedule a discussion.