As economies reopen, North America, Europe and Asia are seeing their COVID-19 infection rates rise again, despite businesses thinking they had the virus under control, reports The HR Director. Concurrently, in the US alone, people are filing hundreds of employee vs employer lawsuits relating to the coronavirus. Local governments are steadily increasing the number of fines they hand out to companies in breach of COVID-19 measures.
Workplaces have been actively taking physical anti-COVID measures (temperature checks, masks, restructured seating plans). Nevertheless, as employees become more lax in regards to preventing the spread of the virus, companies can easily become the location of “super spreader” occurrences. As such, it’s critical for HR to keep good employee behaviour patterns in place in order to continue to effectively combat COVID-19.
The HR Director outlines 4 areas where companies can create a culture of safety: “communications, collaboration, trust and responsiveness.”
Communication and Collaboration
No matter what it is, continued exposure to any risk naturally leads to complacency. Familiarity breeds contempt. As such, it’s important that HR professionals keep in mind that COVID-19 will likely be with us for years to come. This is especially important for high risk industries, such as construction and energy, or any company that regularly has safety meetings to reduce injury rates.
Any training must include new information, or else risk employees switching off. The HR Director provides these examples:
Updates on protecting against COVID-19 aerosols from the World Health Organization, government recommendations to add eye protection, or the reports on mask effectiveness that have been published by different university research teams.https://www.thehrdirector.com/business-news/covid19/strategies-for-enabling-a-culture-of-covid-19-safety/
They also recommend engaging employees through “self-assessment”. Based on national guidelines, workers could answer a few questions before coming to work each day. Then, if the answers indicate exposure to COVID-19, managers can instruct them to take a test and self-isolate. Thus reducing the risk to colleagues. For such a tool to be effective, it would have to work from a smartphone, lowering the barrier to entry.
HR could then feed this data into company software that allows managers to quickly review metrics through a dashboard. They could then see which employees are reporting in, which have symptoms or are at risk of exposure. Decisions could be made about how to protect workers whilst still keeping the business running.
If a business wants cooperation from their employees, it’s crucial that there is a culture of trust. Employees must not fear losing wages, or any other factor that could cause them to hesitate reporting anything concerning. One way businesses can earn this trust is by offering paid leave for any employee who needs to self-isolate but cannot work from home.
The HR Director explains that offering paid leave can actually be a very cost-effective measure for companies:
Consider the example of a worker with COVID-19 at a mid-size manufacturing company. Two week’s paid leave might cost $1,803.20 (based on the $22.54 average hourly wage in manufacturing, according to Trading Economics.) However, that is a fraction of the cost for closing the facility for three days at a cost of $108,192 ($22.54 per hour x 200 workers x 8 hours x 3 days). On top of that are other costs, such as overtime, rush shipping to meet customer deadlines once the facility reopens, and potentially lost business from customers turning to other suppliers.https://www.thehrdirector.com/business-news/covid19/strategies-for-enabling-a-culture-of-covid-19-safety/
It’s important to follow up any such policies with education of employees. HR managers can reduce fear by making paid leave policies clear and easily understood. They can promote people who take it as protectors of their colleagues from infection.
Being quick to respond to any potential exposure is essential, not only to protecting employee’s health, but also to the ability of the business to keep running. Training is one factor that’s important, but so is automation: HR systems can help staff by providing reminders and alerts.
Some HR systems have become sophisticated enough to incorporate content tracking based on self-reporting and GPS tracing, as well as test results. With such systems, managers can track who any infected employee has been in contact with. Therefore, anyone exposed can test for the virus and self-isolate as needed.
HR can create an effective strategy to mitigate COVID-19 through the addressing of behaviour patterns and automation of support processes. Pre-employment screening can also assist in making sure you hire the right person to fit in with your company culture.