Empathetic safety and prioritising employees in the workplace
With the recent lifting of restrictions, vaccine roll-out topping 50 per cent on the island and the Covid-19 pandemic beginning to neutralise, businesses are turning their heads to focus on restarting immediately. However it is necessary to understand protocols essential to allow this transition to occur as smoothly as possible.
The goal of every leader is establishing credible, trustworthy practices that will work to (1) reassure employees, (2) calm customers, and (3) provide confidence to everyone to move forward. This is only possible if built on the belief that personal and family health are being prioritised.
Companies must iterate that they are first ready for employees, then customers, then the community. This will reinforce the fact that the company is prepared, thoughtful, and takes safety seriously. This order is imperative because health begins inside the company with actions and practices taken for their people who will then extend care for others. This is why the top of every company’s priority list is first, employee health protocols and practices, and second, safety reviews and any additional safety protocols.
The first imperative to address are recommended health protocols for the company’s employees. The list of recommendations is extensive (and we cover many of these in our full guide available on our website). Some of these protocols include training all employees on appropriate cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette; mask policies; self-screening for any and all COVID-19 symptoms; screening employees before coming into work and not allowing employees to enter the facility if having shown any symptoms. If an employee shows symptoms, sending them home and not allowing an infected employee to return unless cleared in writing by a physician; maintaining six feet of separation with others and minimising all forms of unnecessary contact; and following Covid-19 patient policies regarding exposure to those they have come in close contact with.
A secondary hot topic right now is if and how a company might welcome fully vaccinated or recently tested employees back on a more open basis. This also might include the use of the Safe-Key protocol currently being rolled out. The decision on how to address this option is one that must be given serious advance thought by all senior leaders. Once a decision has been made, the next question is the company’s communication of their strategy. We have seen several very good examples of how this can be addressed with sensitivity, purpose and inclusivity – and if you are a local company seeking guidance in this regard – please do not hesitate to ask us for advice. Companies that get this right will likely also get the customer side of this question right, as developing a culture internally with your team will result in significant dividends once your team is then in an informed position to deal on the front line as ambassadors with your customers.
Separately, there are recommended protocols for physical spaces and facilities, most regarding sanitisation and cleanliness of the facility. Again, there are several extensive guides with recommendations available. The list primarily includes regularly and frequently cleaning and disinfecting regularly touched surfaces, disinfecting any items that come into contact with customers, making hand sanitiser, disinfecting wipes, and soap and water available to employees and customers, ensuring proper spacing between employees at work, using disposable items in the office and disposing of them properly, placing signage throughout the facility reminding best hygiene practices, and providing employees clear communication of expectations and protocols.
We are also seeing rapid local adoption of new technologies, such as self-disinfecting and antimicrobial coatings, that render all surfaces Covid-safe for periods of up to 90 days. These are surface and food safe and can effectively be used in high touch spaces like offices, schools, public transport, entrance foyers, showrooms, retail and food services.
Whether or not a business uses Safe Key, getting comfortable with company testing and this new normal will not be an easy feat. There will be many questions, and most importantly, there are multiple answers to each of these questions. What is important is to ask the right questions, even if a definitive answer may not yet exist. With time, the best, most appropriate, and most reliable answers will be identified. When communicated clearly, inclusively and empathetically – it becomes the foundation for any company to welcome and thrive through re-entry.
Entrepreneur, leadership consultant and author Stuart Lacey is a co-founder and a director of Bermuda Clarity Institute. To download the full guide The Re-Entry: The Big Concepts, visit Bermuda Clarity Institute’s website www.clarity.bm/downloads and learn more about our research in navigating uncertainty and achieving clarity in the workplace.