Employee’s health and wellness should always be a priority for any organisation. Employers should not just limit themselves to activating business continuity plans and ask employees to work from home but also go a step further to help protect their physical and mental wellness facilities at an individual level.
Most Important Wellness Actions
Companies have a moral and legal obligation to look after employees whether it’s mitigating travel risk or making working hours flexible. Here are some measures they can take to ensure employee wellbeing:
1. Safeguard Without Panic
HR can maintain good order and protect their workforce by providing employees with the right advice to take care of their health. Sharing common do’s and don’ts across the organization is a great start. At the same time, HR must also address individual concerns of employees by providing wellness counselling to prevent stress or panic.
Companies should not allow fear to take over and avoid the spread of misinformation. They should make sure that employees are not sharing any false information or gossiping about others.
2. Simple and Important Wellness Steps
Encourage employees to keep their workstation clean and advocate better hygiene practices in the workplace. Provision of sanitizers, disinfectants and other resources to keep the workplace clean is recommended.
Emphasize preventive steps for guarding the workplace and review illness or absence policies. You don’t want employees to come in sick to work. Therefore set clear guidelines – for instance, in the current times of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, if any employee has a cough, respiratory illness symptoms, or fever, it’s best for them to avail sick leave and take care of themselves until they are better. So, talk to individual employees and provide them with the right resources to avail medical attention.
Make it clear to your employees that they should refrain from mingling closely with others who are sick or show symptoms of a communicable disease. It’s better to stay home and recuperate so that they do not end up spreading the infection to others.
3. Take Mental Health Seriously
Good hygiene and physical health practices are important. However, employees’ mental health is also equally important. In addition to counselling them to follow better hygiene and self-care practices, extend an effective support system to keep negativity at bay, especially in times when panic and confusion are prevalent. Focus on enhancing positivity at the workplace. Sensitize front-line managers to support employees who come forward with any concerns about their safety or wellness.
4. Provide a Flexible Work Arrangement and Adequate Medical Coverage
Facilitate flexible work arrangements including work from home to ensure the wellness of your employees. In the wake of the novel Coronavirus, it is important that you comply with health directives from the authorities and ensure the safety of your employees encourage them to avoid travel, unless absolutely necessary.
Moreover, ensure proper medical coverage and reimbursements for medical tests to detect sickness.
5. Practice Empathy and Address Concerns Promptly
Whether you have a split-team schedule, flexible hours or work-from-home arrangement as a part of the business continuity plan, it is vital for employers to take a step back and not push employees to do certain things or hit certain milestones just because it’s key for the project.
In a health emergency, it’s important to exercise empathy and emphasize the safety of employees as the number one priority. Maslow called ‘safety’ a basic human need. If you don’t address that concern, productivity levels are bound to fall.
If you show care for your employees, you will earn their trust and they will support whatever initiatives you roll out. It is imperative for you to be flexible and go beyond policy to support employees.
Leveraging Work From Home and Supporting Employees Beyond Office
As more and more companies embrace flexible work arrangements to save employees the hassle of commuting to the workplace or exposing themselves to risk, companies should have a support system that extends beyond the physical office.
Social distancing can be an effective mechanism to prevent community transmission. Make sure your managers are well-equipped to manage their teams remotely and that you have a support system in place to keep a tab on employees’ safety and health.
Send daily updates to your team to let them know about any changes or other noteworthy news they should be aware of.
Here are some important actions you can take to support employees who are working from home:
Email is the most sought after communication system for teams working from home, but is it enough? Ensure employees have access to the company intranet and online collaboration tools to encourage two-way communication and feedback. You can even administer mini surveys on a regular basis to gauge how your employees are feeling and detect any shifts in attitude so that you can take proactive steps accordingly.
Reach Out and Show Care
You should monitor your employees and also educate them on how to protect themselves at home. For employees who have not been exposed to work from home mode, it can be even more challenging. Therefore, you should always strive to reach out to your employees to ensure that morale is kept up even during this trying time.
Encourage Virtual Collaboration
Companies should make adequate arrangements to help employees connect from home, giving them access to the in-house Virtual Private Network (VPN) server, telecommuting arrangements and other digital tools to facilitate easy collaboration. It’s HR’s responsibility to make it easy for employees to contribute seamlessly from home and enable them to carry on business as usual.
Good Health is Good Business
As it is, the typical concerns about employee health and wellbeing are challenging enough for employers. With the coronavirus pandemic that has become a global nightmare, it requires nothing less than an all-out response. HR plays the role of motivator and facilitator in this process and has a huge responsibility to ensure employees’ wellbeing.
This means taking a holistic approach: Communicating the facts, keeping employees well-informed of corporate decisions, being empathetic and offering flexible work arrangements. HR needs to take swift decisions to tackle the problem at large.
This is only possible through the joint efforts of senior management. During such situations, the power to act in the best interests of employees and the good of the organisation is vested in HR. It must lead from the front in setting the right expectations, ensuring employee buy-in, dispel panic and restore order to address a critical emergency.