Across Canada, companies are starting to get the go-ahead to reopen: telecommuting will soon no longer be mandatory. Employers must therefore ensure not only the safety of their employees, but also that of their customers. It goes without saying that the pandemic context requires organizations to make adjustments on several levels. Although we can say that we have won the battle against the third wave, the war against this virus is not yet won! We must not let our guard down, remain vigilant and maintain high safety standards for our employees and customers.
1. Assess Risks and Implement Appropriate Work Processes Continuously
The first dose of the vaccine allows us to breathe a little easier and the gradual easing of lockdown is most welcome, but as mentioned earlier, the virus is still present. In order to maintain the safety of employees and customers, it is essential to continue to identify risks specific to the organization on an ongoing basis. As everything changes rapidly, it is necessary to review and ensure that practices that specifically eliminate these hazards are in place and are effective.
2. COVID-19 Guidance: Educate Employees on Rules and New Procedures
Some industries, such as the restaurant industry, experienced a true roller coaster ride with their operations. For more than a year, they were forced to close, open, close again… No matter what type of industry, at each new point we reached during the pandemic (whether positive or negative), new rules and measures were implemented or adjusted, and these changed from one region to another… It was confusing!
Faced with this yo-yo game, in order to ensure that the new rules are respected and adhered to by employees, two things are essential: involve employees and properly communicate the measures chosen as well as the reasons why they were put in place. If you had set up a guide to explain the rules and procedures to your employees when you first reopened in the summer of 2020, it should be reviewed and updated. A reminder is also an essential step in employee buy-in.
3. Maintain the Protocol in Place in Case of COVID-19 Symptoms
With a possible 4th wave that no one can rule out—although it is unlikely—and as long as Ottawa public health recommends it, it is important to stay alert and continue to ask employees to monitor their possible symptoms. It is therefore still appropriate to reassure employees of the procedures they should follow in case of symptoms, before and during their shift, and to inform and remind them of these procedures.
Basic procedures when reopening your business:
- If symptoms occur, the employee should remain at home;
- To the extent that symptoms occur during work hours, it is important to have a designated room to isolate the employee;
- In this room, the employee will be cared for and reassured by a pre-designated person in charge.
4. Have One or Several Communication Channels Available at All Times
Working remotely, in the office or following an hybrid model? It is already clear that not everyone has the same opinion on this subject. Obviously, all this can arouse different emotions in employees. Although we have somehow adapted to this exceptional situation, not everyone has experienced it in the same way.
As we all know, for many people, the pandemic has meant—and still means—experiencing anxiety. It hasn’t been easy on the mental health of many Canadians. Now, with the excitement of finally being able to see each other in person can also come a fear, even an inexplicable discomfort.What will our colleagues be like? How will we get along with new colleagues we have never seen in person before? Should we still wear a mask even though it’s not mandatory? These are all questions that some of our employees may have. There was and still is a lot of uncertainty in the workplace. Employees need answer and they need resources.
Once again, communication is key. Faced with this dichotomy, being able to express yourself in terms of how you feel is essential for a better adaptation. As a manager, you need to be available to your employees and let them know you are open to their questions and suggestions. Make sure your employees have a way to reach you quickly, whether by phone or instant messaging (Slack, Teams, etc.), if they feel the need. These small gestures make a difference for employees, and this is especially true in a context like the one we’ve been dealing with for several months.
5. Follow CNESST and Public Health Measures
Yellow, red, orange… This rainbow of procedures sometimes made our heads spin, but we have to admit that the tiered prevention measures that have been put in place are pretty clear. For each measure, the CNESST has indicated the obligation associated with a tier level. You can then quickly see your obligations according to the level in your region. Some measures remain mandatory, regardless of the level:
- Hand washing;
- Respiratory etiquette measures (coughing into your elbow, etc.);
- Physical distancing;
- Exclusion of symptomatic individuals.
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An Important Learning Experience
We’ve never been in this kind of situation before, and although no one wants to, we could go through something similar again. The important thing is to make sure that we have learned from our mistakes or actions that did not work out well. It is normal to have acted with doubts. Basically, we are building an airplane in mid-flight! Fortunately, we seem to be closer to a real “return to normal” for everyone and for which we will have to manage the emotions associated with it. These will be different for everyone. We may see embarrassment, joy, confusion… In fact, nothing will be the same as before. My number one tip? Conduct engagement surveys even shorter, but more often. And finally, call us, we can help you. As they say, alone we go fast, but together we go further.