Although the global coronavirus pandemic has been a horrible experience, it offers the chance for us to learn from mistakes made and to be better prepared for future outbreaks. Employers in particular should take note and revise their policies and procedures. Workers should feel safe and appreciated, not just during a virus outbreak, but all of the time. Many companies have already made big changes, but others still refuse to give up old ways of operating. However, changes can improve the health, happiness and productivity of employees. Below, I will detail some positive, permanent changes that all employers should make now in order to keep employees safe and happy.
Switch to Remote Work/Telecommuting
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have had to adapt quickly. Whenever possible, workers have worked remotely to reduce the risk of infection. But remote work is far from a new concept. Professionals have expressed the desire to work remotely for years. Online searches show the demand for remote and work-from-home jobs. And after having worked remotely during quarantine, a large percentage of workers realized how much they really love telecommuting. For one, they don’t waste time getting dressed for work, driving to and from the office, and making small talk with coworkers. Remote workers can be more productive thanks to the lack of distractions that often occur in the office. A portion of workers will still want to go into the office at least some days a week. However, remote work should be an option available to all workers that don’t have to physically be at the workplace.
Flexible Work Schedules
Another good change for employees that should result from the pandemic is more flexibility with regard to work hours. Some workers need to be at work or work during specific hours. However, many employees can work any time as long as the work is completed. Employers should allow workers the freedom to work which hours or days they want if the nature of their work allows. If not, arrangements can still be made to increase flexibility. For example, employees might be able to choose a four day work week, working longer hours each day. Other employees might choose to work more days per week but fewer hours each day. Most companies should be able to arrange schedules to accommodate employee preferences without compromising availability or productivity.
More Paid Time Off and Leniency for Sick Workers
During the pandemic, workers have reported going to work with symptoms of COVID-19 because their employers required doctors’ notes. Despite the fact that a highly contagious, deadly virus is spreading, some employers still won’t allow employees to stay home unless they show proof that they have the virus. Since tests can take weeks to come back, these employees could be infecting dozens of coworkers, customers and clients.
Even after the pandemic is over, which could be a while, employers should re-assess their sick time policies. If an employee feels sick, he or she should not feel the need to go to work out of fear of losing pay or a job. This means that some employees will fake being sick to get out of work, but companies must trust that the majority of employees will not abuse a more lenient policy. In addition, all employees will feel safer knowing that a sick coworker can stay home as long as he or she needs. This will improve morale, leading to better productivity and general satisfaction among employees.
Ample PPE and Strict Safety Measures
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that healthcare workers were greatly lacking in proper PPE. Hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities should maintain an ample supply of PPE at all times. It’s not a matter of if, but when, the next contagious disease outbreak will occur.
And it’s not only healthcare workers who are at risk. Essential workers, such as grocery store clerks, delivery drivers and factory workers need sufficient PPE and safety measures in place to protect them from injury and illness. Every business, no matter how big or small, should have stringent safety measures in place to protect employees. These rules should be followed at all times and any violations reported. A serious injury or death should not have to happen in order for employers and workers to take safety seriously.
As the world of work changes, employers must adapt in order to stay competitive and keep workers safe. This means switching to remote work, implementing strict safety procedures and allowing for more flexibility.
Need resources to help make your workplace safe? Visit the World Health Organization’s page on COVID-19 guidance for employers and workers.