More than half of the US adult population has now received at least one vaccination dose. While this represents an important and necessary next step in returning to some semblance of normalcy, it can also be cause for anxiety over the safety of returning to physical spaces with others – particularly work settings, as employers figure out how to get employees back in the office for the first time in over a year.
The anxiety isn’t unwarranted. A return to physical workspaces may also mean returning to unvaccinated coworkers, lax social distancing requirements, new COVID variants and potential workplace breakouts. Plus, the latest mask guidelines from the CDC make managing a mixed-immunity environment even trickier. After more than a year of working remotely or in some cases, not working at all, it may be hard to convince employees of the safety of returning to work, let alone instill confidence in your organization’s efforts to combat COVID-19. But doing so is necessary in order to stay on the path toward normalcy.
To ease employees’ concerns, business leaders must treat COVID-19 and infectious diseases as an ongoing threat and proactively stop breakouts before they happen. Through first-hand findings from speaking with ReturnSafe customers, I’ve pulled together my top three tips to help HR leaders instill and restore employee confidence in returning to work:
- Go above and beyond the recommended guidelines. While government entities may provide recommended guidelines for safely bringing employees back to work, many of the specifics on strategies have been left up to the employers themselves. This can feel like a daunting task, but also provides an opportunity for HR leaders to show employees their organization is going above and beyond to maintain a safe work environment. To do so, employers can proactively implement new tools and technology, provide resources and helpful information on COVID-19 testing and vaccines, and promote safe workplace practices to halt an outbreak before it even has the chance to spread.
- Put protocols in place, now. Employers must set up a systematic approach to infectious disease management for returning to work sooner, rather than later. It’s inevitable that some employees will decide to not get vaccinated, making it even more important to have the right tools in place to manage mixed-immunity environments and keep track of who should be required to wear masks. Vaccination tracking, daily health screeners for non-vaccinated employees and episodic screeners for vaccinated employees, testing programs to catch cases early before infection has spread, and automated case management systems to track vaccination status, contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine management are just some of the tools employers can implement now to ensure employees they are doing everything possible to prevent and manage outbreaks.
- Transparency and privacy are key. Last, but certainly not least, it’s essential to be honest and transparent with your employees. Not doing so could be completely detrimental to employee confidence in the long-term. This includes not only being transparent about the safety practices and protocols your organization has in place, but also about maintaining your employees’ privacy – an issue that we’ve found to be top-of-mind for many of our customers. Ensuring employees that their health information is private and only given to members of the organization on a need-to-know basis is essential to maintaining that trust.
By following these three key tips, employers can help instill employee confidence and ease some of those anxieties around returning to work. The more we can do now, the better we will all be in the long run as we manage this new reality where infectious disease management is no longer just an option, but a necessity.
Jikku Venkat is the CEO of ReturnSafe.