You have established COVID protocols at your worksite, but how do you ensure you maintain your COVID protocols as more people are vaccinated?
It is human nature. Almost everyone I know who has been fully vaccinated, talks about hugging someone that they haven’t seen in a long time. I have heard many others reveling in their first restaurant meal after waiting two weeks after shot number two. With roughly 40% of the American adult population vaccinated as of this writing, it is understandable that some employees might want to sidestep workplace COVID protocols—meeting face to face without masks on, grabbing a bite with a colleague, or leaning over a coworkers’ cubicle.
These seemingly innocent activities put employers in a difficult position. Those business owners and managers who want to foster the sense of belonging and team spirit that they carefully cultivated before COVID-19, may be tempted to go with the flow.
Yet even if it seems that the worst is behind us, this isn’t the time to let our guards down in the workplace. It is the time to continue adherence to CDC and OSHA COVID-19 standards.
Maintaining COVID protocols is easier said than done. Here are some insights and suggestions.
Respect your employees.
First and foremost, employees want to know that employers will do everything in their power to keep them safe. A recent study of 1,000 U.S. personnel revealed that two out of three people are worried about their health and safety when it comes to returning to the workplace (Source: Envoy). The solution: mask mandates must be followed, hand sanitizers should be made available, and changes to the physical workplace such as plexiglass dividers and physical distancing reminders should remain.
Maintaining these practices is not only what employees want and expect; it sends a resounding message that you care about your team.
Lead by example.
It starts at the top, right? Whatever your workplace safety standards, it’s vital that you and your management team model them. Just as important is treating every team member equally. You are going to have employees who do not get vaccinated for religious, medical or other reasons, and their work colleagues will know. To avoid the rumor mill and a potentially toxic environment, be consistent and rigorous with safety standards to protect those who may not be vaccinated.
Understand that everyone has different tolerance for risk.
Maybe you consider your team members ‘family’ but unlike your spouse, children, and other relatives, you don’t fully know their comings and goings, their belief systems, attitudes and cultural norms.
For example, you might have two great employees: one who has lost a family member to the pandemic and who is fearful they may lose others, and another whose family and friends have been spared and has a high tolerance for risk. Some employees might believe it is everyone’s duty to get vaccinated while others might have an aversion to vaccinations. Your job is to do what’s best for your business while valuing individual differences. While it is a fine line to walk, understanding that everyone has differing opinions, and respecting them while providing leadership is your role.
Keep an open dialogue.
Communicate to your team that while we are in a much better place than even a few months ago, the COVID-19 situation is still evolving. Be transparent and open about the fact that everyone is different, and because of that, you are erring on the side of caution. Emphasize respect for one another, including everyone’s physical and mental well-being.
Continue to review COVID protocols, remind team members at every level to adhere to them and address any infractions, deliberate or not, immediately. Pulling aside a staff member to remind them what they need to do will go a long way in reinforcing that you are serious about the entire team’s safety.
Accept that COVID-19 may be here indefinitely.
We have been living with the unknown for more than a year and it looks like that trend will continue for the foreseeable future. It is too soon to tell how long the vaccines may keep us immunized and it is anyone’s guess whether new variants will develop into something we need to be concerned about. With so many unknown factors, taking risks related to health is simply not good business. Ultimately, it can hurt productivity, morale, your reputation and your bottom line.
Remember why you put COVID protocols in place when the pandemic first hit, and that protecting your team is not only the right thing to do, in some cases, it may be the law. Also recognize that putting safety at the top of your priority list is much more than a legal obligation, it’s important to nurturing a positive company culture.
Need help with HR issues you’re facing? NEMR will help you approach HR issues in a methodical, and logical way. Change is inevitable, especially now, but you have options and need to control how to implement the myriad of laws within your organization. Take your time making decisions that impact your people, communicate your plans and be open to feedback and ideas. Chat Live with us to learn more or Email Us.