Even as COVID-19 Lockdowns Ease, Vigilance Remains Key
After months of lockdowns that have ravaged the economy, many parts of the country are slowly easing restrictions. Many individuals, perhaps exhausted and anxious after an extended period of isolation, are gradually transitioning to a new normal, including returning to workplaces.
But despite a widespread desire for the COVID-19 pandemic to end, the risk is far from gone. The US is still registering tens of thousands of daily new cases of the virus that has infected more than 2.3 million people and killed over 120,000 across the country.
For employers, the message is clear: Do not be lulled into a false sense of security and complacency during this period of adjustment. Now is the time to review and potentially revamp your plans to keep your business operational and your employees and customers safe.
Put People First
Currently, social distancing remains the most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Employers should consider whether remote working arrangements can be retained without hampering productivity.
Employers that are reopening physical locations should take steps to ensure these workspaces are as safe as possible. This should include stepping up cleaning and hygiene practices and ensuring that employees as well as customers or visitors can – and do – practice effective COVID-19 avoidance measures, including maintaining distances, washing hands frequently, and wearing a cloth face covering. In a COVID-19 world, it is essential to continuously monitor key metrics – such as, compliance with cleaning schedules – and have transparent structures in place to reassess your actions when data points to potential problems.
And remember to look at external data. Employers need to be cognizant of infection rates within their communities and be prepared to take quick action in line with government directives; this will potentially include closing workplaces in new hotspots.
Maintain Effective Communications
While plans should be reviewed regularly, employers need to make sure that current guidelines are followed and communicated effectively to employees and customers. As employees return to workplaces, reiterate and reinforce your guidelines and be explicit about your expectations. And while you cannot control what employees do outside of the workplace, it is appropriate to underline the importance of following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations to protect themselves and others.
Employers also need to keep in mind that a one-size-fits-all approach to returning to the workplace might not be appropriate. While employers should avoid behavior that could be considered discriminatory, it is good practice to be flexible and responsive to individual employees’ concerns for their own or their loved ones’ safety, especially when it comes to health concerns that might make individuals more susceptible to COVID-19 complications. This requires establishing a culture that promotes two-way communication and encourages employees to come forward with concerns. It is paramount that senior leaders lead with empathy and make sure employees know that their health and safety remains their top priority.
The lifting of restrictions over the past several weeks have been accompanied by a renewed sense of optimism that the worst days of the pandemic are over. But employers must not let their guard down. Instead, double down on your efforts to keep your business and people safe and limit COVID-19’s effect on your workplace.