Overcoming Fear Will Be Critical to Returning to Work

coworkers in office working distantly with masks

Coronavirus isn’t the only thing that is contagious – so is fear. And fear is one thing your HR team will be battling as we reopen the economy and reengage workers. Health screening, social distancing, and hygiene practices will be critical to managing this anxiety and winning the trust of your employees as you lean through the uncertainty of economic re-opening.

Fear of getting seriously ill – or causing someone else to become seriously ill – has been the driving factor behind our response to the coronavirus. Here are some unsurprising statistics:

  • 50% of workers are afraid to go to work, according to a Forrester survey
  • 60% of full-time workers report an increase in daily worry, and 65% report an increase in daily stress, according to a Gallup survey

Making safety and health your No. 1 priority will be the best way to demonstrate your commitment to your employees and customers alike. Here are some suggestions:

1. Implement Health Screening

Until there is a vaccine, the only way to track the spread of coronavirus is through testing. While daily mass testing of otherwise healthy people may not be feasible at the moment, health screening certainly is. The CDC has provided key questions to help determine if a person has symptoms. With a health-screening bot, you can confirm whether it is safe for individuals to enter your business – and also maintain an audit trail of every person in your facility. This provides an easy way for you to track insights and respond if a situation or resurgence arises. Bots can be implemented quickly, usually within a couple days or a week. You’ll need to make sure your bot has the right security measures in place for you to maintain privacy. Here are some things to consider:

  • Have employees self-screen with a bot on your webpage or SMS before they come to work each day
  • Consider temperature checking upon entry
  • Establish procedures for what to do if a person fails a screening
  • Make sure to follow the guidelines provided by your local government

2. Make Physical Changes to Accommodate Social Distancing

Returning to work will likely be a phased process, with businesses evaluating revised facility capacity based on the recommended 6-foot social distancing protocols and government guidelines for congregating. Before your business opens, you might need to restructure the physical space in your facility. Businesses can benefit from the experiences of grocers, who’ve been innovators in this realm. Here are a few tips:

  • Control egress points, including deliveries
  • Stagger the timing of arrivals and departures – if possible, alternate staff work weeks or negotiate for employees to create their own schedules
  • Designate traffic patterns, such as up one aisle and down the next
  • Specify seating or workstation arrangements to help staff adhere to minimum work distances
  • Reconfigure gathering and lobby areas for social distancing
  • Reduce capacity of spaces by removing chairs from conference rooms, break rooms and dining areas
  • Limit in-person meetings or hold them outside if possible
  • Prohibit the use of small rooms or convert them to single-occupant spaces
  • Cap the number of occupants on elevators
  • Publicize your policies, including visitor policies

3. Update Hygiene and Cleaning Routines to Minimize Spread

The best way to avoid the spread of the virus is to maintain good hygiene and cleanliness. It used to be just germaphobes or medical professionals/scientists who sanitized their workstations or desks multiple times a day. Now, this has become expected. Here are some ideas to keep in mind when creating your new policies:

  • Sanitize the entire facility before re-opening
  • Enhance and track daily cleaning practices
  • Source cleaning products from lists approved by governing authorities
  • Supply sanitizer, wipes, and PPE near each work area or desk, especially those that are shared
  • Institute a clean desk/workstation policy
  • Add panels between checkout counters, stations, and desks
  • Install plexiglass or plastic shields in front of counters and on touchpads that cannot be cleaned
  • Remove food/beverages or consider restocking with single-serving items
  • Consider low-touch or no-touch switches, doors, drawers, bathroom door handles, and other fittings
  • Remove high-touch shared items, like whiteboard markers, remote controls, and touchscreens
  • Create secured, designated storage areas for personal items
  • Designate a specific enclosed room to isolate any person who is experiencing symptoms
  • Decide how you will respond when people fail to comply with your corporate guidelines for cleanliness

Each state and local community will be different, so you will need to take into account the shifting changes in each location where you do business. The guidelines are likely to continue to change as the virus surges and retreats. Here is a guide to state coronavirus reopenings and lockdowns.

Of course, communication will be key to managing your reopening process. You will need to engage with employees to hear specific concerns, and address them as they arise. Also, making sure that your new policies and procedures are communicated to every employee and reinforced regularly will go a long way to avoiding confusion and fear.

Our society continues to evaluate and balance the dangers of falling ill from the pandemic alongside the dangers of a stalled economy. Individuals, and legislators themselves, are going to be at different stages along that spectrum depending on their personal situations, and opinions continue to be fluid. Embrace the conversation, and do what you can to make your workplace as safe as possible for workers to feel comfortable returning to work.

Astute is a smart-technology company that provides a Health Screening Chatbot to promote a healthy work environment, and a Crisis Management AI to provide personalized answers to common questions by customers. Please ask for a demo or more information on how we can get your business up and running within days.