How to manage COVID-anxiety as your team returns to the workplace

Wednesday May 27, 2020

There’s no doubt COVID-19 will continue to impact the way we live, work and socialise for some time to come. With the emphasis in Australia around flattening the curve while getting our economy moving again, many people will remain fearful that it’s all too much too soon.

For this reason, one can expect some employees will feel anxious about returning to work. As an employer, it’s vital you listen to their concerns and work through the issues in collaboration with your employees. Keeping your workforce healthy – mentally and physically – is also essential if you want your business to survive.

So, how do you set your employees’ mind at ease regarding the transition back to their workplace, or do they simply continue working from home?

A commitment to COVIDSafe workplaces

To help reduce the anxiety of returning to the workplace, employers can show a serious commitment to a safe workplace. As a first step, ensure you have a clear and well-thought-out COVIDSafe Plan, taking into account relevant recommendations and requirements from your state government and health department.

Some examples of items to consider for your COVIDSafe Plan include:

  • Implementing systems and processes for maintaining better workplace hygiene
  • Conducting health monitoring
  • Ensuring effective and rigorous cleaning
  • Cancelling or postponing all non-essential meetings, training and gatherings while moving as much to video and teleconferencing platforms as possible
  • Implementing flexible working options
  • Preparing for incidences of coronavirus in your workplace
  • Developing a clear disciplinary process that is consistently followed for managing anyone who doesn’t follow COVIDSafe practices

Implementing flexible working options

Flexible working is a legitimate option for creating a COVIDSafe workplace. Consider introducing:

  • Shifts
  • Staggering start and finish times as well as lunch breaks
  • Allowing employees to continue working from home for some or all of their work week

Flexible working options will also help employees avoid public transport at peak times.

Be prepared to see an increase in employees asking to work from home as many will have discovered its wonders! For some businesses, this may not be possible. For others, it will be a management decision which should take into account whether the employee:

  • Is productive when working from home
  • Needs to supervise other staff or be supervised
  • Needs to interact with co-workers and other people face-to-face
  • Is in a high-risk health category
  • Or, there are legitimate business grounds for you to refuse the request

Clear communication

Clear communication with employees around your COVIDSafe Plan is essential. Understanding your commitment to being COVIDSafe and the measures you are taking to ensure your workplace remains hygienic and safe will reduce some anxieties employees may have regarding their return to work.

Lead by example

Employees will scrutinise the actions and behaviours of management regarding COVID-safety. Expect to lead by example if your employees are to believe you are serious about keeping your workplace COVIDSafe.

With the three-step Plan for a “COVIDSafe Australia” already released and in action, you must prepare now for the oncoming changes. For help and advice with setting up your COVIDSafe Plan and preparing for a return to the workplace, call us. Our team will be able to help you identify the best way forward for your business.

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