The year 2021 has begun with a swathe of positive news as the nations around the globe gear up for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout by the National Institutes of Health.
Returning staff to work during the COVID-19 pandemic is more challenging than just declaring a reopening or return-to-work date and going about your business as usual. Even with vaccines widely available, many workplaces will be affected immediately, and some changes may be long-term.
Since it has been a year working from home, you and your campus employees must be missing all the office gossip, eating together and the joy of working with your office buddy!
Companies will need to pay close attention to change management as individuals adapt to new ways of working. To successfully bring everyone through the transition, serious consideration of how to alter company culture to enable new working methods will be required.
After going through a real tough time, business organizations have now started driving ahead and preparing themselves for the new normal after the Covid-19 pandemic.
So you must also remain informed of the numerous concerns as offices resume and front-line employees return to the workplace.
According to the KPMG's outlook pulse survey, around 94% of the CEOs are planning to ask their regular, seasonal, and essential workers to get vaccination doses before they return to work after the Covid-19 crisis.
What steps must be taken to return to the office post-vaccination?
Employees of every organization have been doing work from home for more than a year now and the service of vaccination has been initiated. The government's regulatory bodies have issued guidelines for the reopening of every organization after the Covid-19 crisis.
Hence it has become extremely important for you as a human resource manager to inform every employee about the office reopening policy and further devise an outline for managing the physical footprint of employees in the office post the Covid-19 vaccination.
So now you might be thinking about how to move ahead and plan the employees' comeback after vaccination?
Go ahead and take the steps mentioned hereunder to plan out the office return past the Covid-19 pandemic vaccination.
- Present accurate re-opening guidelines to your employees
When you are planning to reopen your office past the vaccination, always ensure that your employees are well-informed of all the guidelines that the company has set out in accordance to working in the office post-covid -19 pandemic.
You must never leave your employees bewildered regarding the office reopening guidelines and other guiding principles.
Rather, you must keep your employees and internal people safe and protected while returning to the office after vaccination and be able to work with a free mind and not under any stress of the Covid-19 crisis. (Simple isn't it!)
For instance, a guiding policy can be that your company wants to prioritize the safety of people over everything else by reducing the Covid risk level, or maybe your organizations want to warrant an open conversation with the workforce to increase employee productivity.
Whatever be your guiding policies, you must always adhere to them and lead back to them concerning office reopening choices after vaccination and accommodating to Covid-19 pandemic transformations that might impact the business operations.
In addition to this, your business organization must further assure that they devise the workplace guidelines taking into consideration the CDC's guidelines for building sustained and salubrious workplaces.
Moreover, your internal policies must assure that the workplace remains hygienic by routinely disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces and commonly used articles and placing masks and sanitizers at every workstation.
Even if the employees and the management team come vaccinated, you must encourage regular and out-and-out hand-washing and further make hand sanitiser easily obtainable everywhere to ensure workplace safety.
Another thing that you must keep in mind is the fact that it is very difficult for human beings to leave a developed habit and inculcate novel ones. Hence, you must not expect your employees to adhere to all the set guidelines meticulously as according to market research performed by the Harvard Business School, six factors influence human habits.
Let's have a look at them!
- An ethical and compelling moral framework
- Setting some voluntary customs
- Control and peer influence
- Convivial and friendly support
- Trailing or maintaining score points
- Support, means, and environmental tips
According to the survey respondents, when all these six principles of control are clubbed, it generates an assertive and enduring change in the habits of a person.
Hence, if you feel that the employees of your company must properly follow all the set guidelines of coming to the physical workplace past covid vaccination, Encourage them!
Employ these two steps and you will see that your employees will automatically start following the set guidelines.
- Foster responsibility
To ensure that your employees remain protected even after the covid vaccination, you must ensure that they develop a habit of taking responsibility for their actions and further understand that their irresponsible behaviour can hamper the security and safety of people working with them.
- Set an example for them
As you know that employees generally follow what upper management and their business leaders do. Employee manuals and company memos do not provide motivation.
It is preferable to show rather than tell good examples of proper workplace behaviour. Natural leaders set the bar higher by demonstrating how to approach obstacles with a positive mindset.
Hence, to make your employees follow the post-vaccination office working guidelines, abide by the set guidelines yourself first and become an example for the employees to follow the reasonable accommodation guidelines set out for them.
- Do not stop the sanitization and screening protocols
Now, this is a very important step!
Secure and healthy conditions are essential for quality work, and they must be the foundation for policy guidance on the return to work.
Even when your workforce is returning to the office vaccinated, do not stop the sanitization and screening protocols that were earlier followed at your physical workplace.
The main reason to still follow this screening and sanitization protocol is that even after getting vaccinated, herd immunity is yet to develop amongst people and there are still strong odds of them getting infected with the Coronavirus.
You must now be thinking about when will this herd immunity develop and when will all this get over right?
Herd immunity will only develop when more than 75% of the population will get vaccinated and this is sure to take some time. Apart from following strict sanitization and temperature screening procedures, employers or HR managers must also ensure that the employees are following the proper and necessary social distancing, wearing masks (especially N-95 masks), and washing hands regularly while they are at the physical workplace.
- Become more adaptable and welcoming
Since the employees were working from home for more than a year, the employers became more flexible in their business operations as compared to the pre-covid-19 pandemic era.
Hence, you should adhere to this similar approach of flexibility at the time when your employees are coming back to the physical workplace post-vaccination.
So what's the best way to become more flexible and welcoming?
The most suitable way is rather than calling the entire workforce to the office at the very time, you must call them in phases till the situation gets under control and every person at your workplace gets vaccinated.
Doing this will assist the employees to ease out a bit from the anxiety that they are undergoing since the preceding year.
This will further ensure that the employees who are vaccinated are not forced to share the office space with the ones that are not vaccinated and it can protect them from the risk of getting infected with the virus again and also retain all your employees safe.
- Establish timeline projection for your workers
Now that you have set the guidelines and are excited to see your beloved desk once again, you must not forget that getting the vaccination done and taking things back to normal is not as easy as it seems.
Hence, every employer in each organization needs to establish timely projections regarding the office plans and protocols that every backend and frontline workers need to follow.
For example, you can set an expectation like, it will be compulsory for all the employees to go through the temperature checks at the office entrance or to get the Covid-19 vaccine before coming back to the office or taking care of public health for a stipulated period of time.
Do you know it is also important for you as an HR manager or a responsible employer to ensure that the employees receive all the proper healthcare facilities at the workplace?
Hence, to ensure this happens, you must always hold top healthcare providers ready in case there is any workplace medical emergency.
Do you want your corporate employees to remain hale and hearty once they return to the office after vaccination?
You can ensure this by getting the healthcare insurance of the frontline employees or all the eligible employees from a reputed institution like Medstar health so that your eligible employees are equipped with adequate health benefits to overcome this difficult time.
Furthermore, also take care of the fact that they must only allow every employee only after they are vaccinated with both the doses of covid-19 vaccination as according to a survey made by medical professionals in the United States, it is proven that there are chances of people getting infected and showing Covid-19 symptoms between the duration of the first and second dose of the vaccine.
Hence, you must always ensure that every employee returns to the workplace a few days after taking the second dose of the vaccine and post getting the Covid-19 testing done.
- Redefine employee workplace encounter
Since everyone across the world has undergone a difficult time, including your employees as they might have suffered from the loss of their loved ones due to the Covid-19 pandemic or maybe encountered deteriorating health or job insecurity or any other such problems.
Ensure that you redefine the workplace experience for your employees and all other essential workers.
Start taking responses from your employees about their Covid-19 crisis experiences or how they deal with difficult times and build a more interactive environment.
Apart from this, to enhance employee productivity and to make them work towards the company's vision, many influential companies like Johnson & Johnson in San Francisco and many reputed companies in the Indian silicon valley, Puerto Rico, and other parts of the world are working towards changing their company culture and creating cross-functional work strategies.
- Embrace the technology
Even though the vaccinations have started, the vaccination rates are low and it will take time for healthcare professionals to reach every individual across the globe, and till that time the workplaces cannot operate with full efficiency.
Therefore, it is self-evident that many workers who are undergoing a high level of infection or who are not yet vaccinated or at a high risk of getting infected will continue to work from home.
So how to manage such employees then?
This cloud-based HRMS will ensure that your remote employee administration is carried out with ease and it further enhances the organizational resilience as you can keep a track of even their hourly employees from any part of the world.
- Initiate mass vaccination drives for employees still not vaccinated
Now that the vaccine development is done, you can plan mass aggressive vaccination drives for the employees who are still not vaccinated.
In addition to this, just like the Amazon web services, you can also initiate the diagnostic development initiative to identify the early signs and level of infection of employees suffering from covid to ensure that Covid-19 patients are given timely treatment.
Apart from this, you can also create a response fund or a solidarity response fund to help out the family of your employees or in paying for the covid-19 testing or other medical expenses in case they get infected with the virus even after vaccination while coming to the workplace.
Doing all this will ensure that your employees feel more connected with your organization and it will further enhance that employee productivity at the workplace once they return.
- Take care of the employee's mental health
Apart from hampering the physical health of the people, this Covid-19 crisis has also impacted the mental health of almost every individual across the globe.
Did you know, according to a survey conducted by the CDC, approximately 40% of the people in San Francisco and other places in the United States were suffering from mental anxiety due to staying isolated in the Covid-19 pandemic?
And they sought assistance from healthcare providers from various mental healthcare departments?
Hence, now when the employees are returning to the workplace after the vaccine development, it becomes the duty of the HR managers to take care of the mental health of the employees and further keep people safe.
The bottom line
Below mentioned is a checklist, which will help you ensure that your workplace is ready to welcome the employees post-vaccination with maximum safety.
- Companies have set up more hand sanitizing stations, require the use of masks in the workplace, and assign team members to ensure that protocols are followed and that staff has the information and equipment they need to maintain personal and workplace safety and hygiene.
- Daily reminders must be generated to the non-vaccinated employees to get their vaccine, as well as to update their vaccination status.
- Following and implementing a regulated strategy regarding when or how employees will return to work, as it could be stressful and potentially dangerous for all employees to return on the same day at the same time.
- There might be some level of stress and nervousness that the employees might face before returning to the workplace, which might impact productivity and overall working of the organization. Thus it is essential to ensure and promote open communication, which will not only help the employees feel welcomed but also help the organization communicate the new guidelines and plans.
- Finally, make sure to follow all the guidelines implemented by the government.
While the covid-19 pandemic is coming to an end, it has not completely gotten over yet and covid-19 cases continue to prevail.
Hence, you are still required to take proper precautions and make appropriate office plans while reopening the office even when the employees are vaccinated. Companies can choose between three basic alternatives for returning to work after the pandemic: calling everyone back to the office, adopting a hybrid model, or providing more totally remote opportunities.
Companies will need to show flexibility in how they redefine the future of work as the threats posed by COVID-19 continue to evolve.
As an HR manager, you can take assistance from the points mentioned above and keep your workplace and employees safe during this extended Covid-19 crisis.
Till then stay safe and Happy Working!