As restrictions begin to ease, the questions begin. What do we need to do before we begin ramping up? Are we doing everything we can to protect employees still at work? While physical distancing persists, are temporary home offices as safe as they could be?
"Now is the time to assess existing precautions and figure out next steps," says Stephen Shaw, WSPS' Director of Integrated Operations. "For essential services that have been operating all along, or other businesses ramping up or reopening, there's a lot to think about and manage."
That’s why a multi-disciplinary team of WSPS experts has been hard at work creating pandemic preparedness and pandemic recovery: return-to-business checklists, information sheets on setting up a home office workstation and temporary laptop workstation, and even at-home flexibility stretches. More resources are being added all the time, including a workplace decontamination checklist and a playbook for employers on key elements to incorporate into their plans for ramping up or reopening.
Tools like these checklists and information sheets can help you understand what needs to be done and prioritize next steps. But before you jump right into it all, take a look at the five key considerations Stephen suggests for employers:
- preparing the physical space. "Most workplaces will need to sanitize prior to returning, replace HVAC filters, flush out the plumbing system, and so on. What are your workplace's unique requirements?
- adjusting work practices. In terms of physical distancing requirements, do you need to rethink your workstations? Going forward, should you stagger shifts and breaks? Adjust how employees interact with customers? How will you manage employee washrooms, public washrooms, cafeterias or elevators? A new series of downloadable sector- and job-specific COVID-19 guidance documents can help you start the ball rolling.
- protecting mental health. Among respondents to a U.S. survey conducted in early April, 69% of workers claimed this was the most stressful time of their entire professional career, and 91% of people working from home reported feeling moderate to extreme stress.* As people return to their workplace, mental health issues may not become apparent right away. Give managers tools and supports now to help them understand and recognize possible workplace triggers.
- providing re-entry training on the new normal. In many organizations the way in which we work is evolving. What will employees need to know and do when they return to your workplace? How can you adjust orientation training and job-specific training to accommodate this?
- addressing employees' safety concerns. Employees may be apprehensive about returning to work. Communicating the value that the organization places on safety and the steps being taken to protect employees and customers is as important as the steps themselves. Incorporate both into communications at all levels.
"While there's a lot to think about," says Stephen, "there are many tools and resources to help you navigate through this. Taking action now could eliminate problems later."
Planning your next steps
WSPS eNews asked Stephen who to involve in moving forward. "If you already have a pandemic team or business continuity team, start with them," he suggests. "Add other essential voices, such as HR, Operations, IT, Managed Systems, Marketing and Sales, and Customer Service. Coordinate your planning with employee groups, such as the joint health and safety committee. All these voices can help you identify issues and solutions, and implement an action plan."
How WSPS can help
We have a growing portfolio of checklists, information sheets, sector- and job-specific guidance documents and other resources available on our website.
Our consultants are also available for conversations, discussions and virtual meetings. Start by calling our Duty Consultant: 1-877-494-WSPS (9777) - they are available Monday to Friday, from 7am - 7pm.
* The survey was conducted by Ginger, an on-demand mental health company. Results are summarized in 2020 Workforce Attitudes Towards Mental Health Report; www.ginger.io/resources