As Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions begin to ease, many organisations are getting ready to welcome their staff back onsite. But without a vaccine on the horizon, many employees are feeling anxious about returning to the workplace. There are several ways that employers can help to minimise health risks and employee stress, including:

Professional cleaning – Hire a cleaning service to deep clean the entire office using high-grade cleaning solutions that will kill more germs than household products. Make sure the cleaner does a thorough job and even consider carpet shampooing and cleaning air ducts.

Emphasise hygiene – Make it easy for employees to follow good hygiene practices by keeping plenty of supplies on hand. Stock up on disinfectant wipes, hand sanitiser, paper towels, tissues, face masks, and gloves and make sure staff can access products as required. Also keep hand sanitiser and disinfectant in common areas so employees can wipe down counters, door handles, elevator buttons, and appliances after use.

Encourage social distancing – Many workplaces have implemented a maximum 50% capacity rule in their offices, with no hot desking allowed and desks sufficiently spaced apart. Social distancing can be complicated in shared areas such as the kitchen and meeting rooms, so sufficient signage outlining the guidelines for this helps. For example, meeting rooms may even become off-limits areas. Many buildings have a maximum number allowed in the lifts at one time to avoid crowding.

Provide more flexibility – Until a Coronavirus vaccine is found, some employees will continue to feel anxious. Employers need to support these staff members and consider their unique situations. If employees are hesitant to use public transport to get to work, perhaps they can carpool with a co-worker. If they are worried about working in an office environment, consider reduced hours or allow them to work from home.

Open communication – Check in with employees regularly. Ask them how they are feeling and whether they are concerned about anything. If they highlight any issues, acknowledge their feelings and reassure them that you will do everything in your power to minimise or eliminate those concerns. Make sure employees are also aware of their rights and entitlements and how to access support if they need it.

How to look after the mental health of remote workers

An employer’s duty of care applies to all workplaces, including the home. A few ways that employers can support staff to be successful at working from home and ensure that employees stay mentally and physically healthy:

• Ensure that all employees are technologically equipped to work from home
• Provide employees with clear guidelines and briefs so they know exactly what is expected of them
• Encourage employees to get out each day for a proper lunch break to ensure that they can get some fresh air, exercise, eat well and recharge
• Ensure that remote workers do not feel excluded from onsite events and that virtual meetups and videoconferencing are incorporated into the working week
• Check-in regularly to ensure that the arrangement is working for both parties

By implementing a few of these strategies with your staff members, they will feel supported and valued during what is a challenging time for many.

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