Most everyone is aware of how important a healthy and safe workplace is while our employees are returning to work. But we may underestimate just how critical an issue it really is when an employee is deciding to go back into your workspace.
We may not be aware of the variety of personal situations in which our employees live. Older parents or very sick children who need to be protected through isolation are only two examples. Some employees may not have wanted to share this information with you in the past but now it is necessary to do so.
The critical challenge in these situations of an employee returning to work is TRUST. For example, one of your employees tells you that they are either sick, have been exposed to COVID-19, or have family members living with them who are susceptible because of health reasons. In any case, it is hard to have documentation validating these claims. The critical issue here is consistency in making human resources decisions when it is difficult to obtain documentation. What you decide for one employee should be also applied to other employees to avoid being accused of preferential treatment particularly when one party is in a protected class of workers.
When you request employees to return to work at your company and tell them that you are providing a safe work environment, it is only fair that you share the precautions that you have taken to be in compliance with the many regulatory requirements from several different government agencies. We recommend that you make a list of these safety precautions that you have implemented and email to your returning employees. You must be careful what you put in writing is accurate and in compliance with these new requirements because you may be in a situation of having to defend these safety regulations, especially if one of your employees or customers happens to become infected with the virus.
Another important consideration is being ready to defend the precautions which you have implemented when an employee challenges you on your decisions. In this case, you should be ready to show the employee the regulation and the source. We must remember that when dealing with someone’s health or possible death, this is a very serious topic. If you are challenged, it is recommended that you not show your distaste of this challenge but that you are confident that you have received the correct information.
An excellent place to start researching is OSHA, which is the regulatory arm of the federal government for workplace safety issues and requirements. You can go to OSHA.gov to begin your search. This website will also direct you to one of their knowledge experts if you have a question about your specific work environment. It is always good to check with others in HR, your industry or even within your building if you are in a third party complex on what else you can do to address and enhance trust (like Mulling HR).
Not only it is important to reassure your returning employees that you are providing a safe and healthy working environment, but that you are maintaining this healthy environment on an ongoing basis. Your credibility and you showing that you care about your employees‘ health is at stake here. Not demonstrating this concern could irreparably damage your reputation as a good employer. This can affect your ability to attract and retain the top talent that you need to provide the superior service level that you advertise.
We have presented webinars on how your employees have changed in many ways and how your Supervisors must be trained in how to manage and meet the needs of these changed employees. This is a part of how our world has shifted. If you are in denial about these paradigm shifts, you are setting yourself up for huge issues in the future. Be proactive and get advice NOW on what you are required to implement not only in safety regulations but in the many other Human Resources requirements that have become mandatory in just the last three months. Let us at Mulling HR know if we can assist you with any of the complicated new development. We have the experienced HR professionals who can make your life a lot easier.
Author: Emory Mulling
Emory Mulling is a nationally recognized HR Consultant and Executive Coaching expert. As Founder and Chairman for the Mulling Corporation, the Mulling family of businesses is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The firm was founded in 1986 and is a leader in HR consulting for small, medium and large companies.