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How safe will you and your employees feel as the phased return to work is anticipated?

Irrespective of the actual safety, the anticipated and perceived feeling of safety will be paramount for businesses to once again achieve strategic objectives and operate at maximum efficiency levels.

Business owners are seeking implementation of a stepwise back to work regime in anticipation of the partial lifting of Covid-19 lockdown measures.  Whilst many other specialists are working together and advising businesses on essential and wide-ranging topics from employment law to health & safety criminal law compliance, let’s look at the impact of feelings on profits.

The Place of Safety

Over the last few weeks people have experienced a shock that has rocked them to their core.  Faced with a very real threat where they have seen hundreds of thousands of people seriously ill or sadly die, they have feared for their own life and the lives of their loved ones.  “Stay Safe, Stay Home” has for many become the mantra for survival.

Even the most grounded and rational people have experienced feelings of fear bubbling up inside them giving way to automatic thoughts of “will I be safe?”

For businesses to survive and thrive people need to know they will be safe with physical safety and feel safe so their brain and metabolism will be more relaxed and be able to focus and concentrate on their work.

When people are distracted by their feelings and thoughts productivity decreases, errors increase and profits diminish.  With further supervisory and managerial pressure to “get it right” the pressure can become too much with increased and costly levels of sickness and staff attrition.

With all adequate and required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provided and training given many employers may consider they have complied with HSE Regulations.

Workstation layout reconfigured to ensure social distancing, new signage for public areas, toilets, kitchen and plexiglass screens erected in client facing areas, meeting rooms and reception areas.  Perhaps deep cleaning and sanitisation has taken place giving employees reassurance their workspace is free from contamination.  But what about air conditioning and ventilation units?  Could they be a perceived threat and exacerbating risks?  How far does your duty of care extend?  How far has your thinking extended?  What threat (real or perceived) will employees see and feel?

How will people feel about their parking arrangements?  Will they feel anxious about travelling?  Have you considered your new risk assessments, updated documentation and identified hazards and set out your mitigation measures?  Every small, additional step you and your management team take and show your employees you have thought about their well-being and the well-being of their family and loved ones will help reassure people it is safe to return and adopt “New Normal” working procedures.

Emphasis On Well-Being, Psychological and Emotional Safety

One aspect is clear: the old ways of working in place just a few weeks ago are now banished to the annals of time.  “New Normal” working requirements have emphasis on heightened well-being, psychological safety, emotional safety balanced with the requirement to be operationally superior ensuring high levels of efficiency and effectiveness whilst delivering first class service to clients who will also have a need for emotional safety through their suppliers and supply chain.

People’s very real feelings of work related fear, anxiety and possible demonstration of frustration and anger are the responsibility of employers.  Even perceived fear generates seemingly irrational thoughts which may question whether the employer undertook adequate planning and put in place steps to keep staff safe.  Employees will have very real and potentially costly concerns.

Considering Your Return To Work Risk Assessment

The mindset when first considering return to work risk assessment usually jumps to compliance in the literal sense with H&S regulatory requirements.

Knowing the plans for social distancing, workstation layout, lift, kitchen and toilet policies, sanitisation stations for clients, customers and employees together with the successive prioritisation of phased return to work will give employees some comfort.  But for your best employees to continue to choose to work with you, they will be looking for the next steps of reassurance.

Many people will be seeking a complete model of reassurance it is safe to leave their home and return to work.  Giving consideration now as to how to transform your business into an industrious haven will not only give employees reassurance, but will bring heightened awareness to your brand, improve your marketing ROI and drive an ever increasing number of clients to you who equally share your ethics and philosophy.  Loyal clients are attracted to happy, healthy employees.

From Surviving To Thriving

Great levels of communication, a sense of purpose, an understanding of business strategy and growth plans in the “New Normal World” will come in to play.  With many people experiencing an elongated period away from a confined work environment, they have experienced a sense of “being” many may not have experienced previously.

To thrive in the New Normal World business owners, leaders, directors and managers all must come together and consider business success from a different perspective.  One where employees feel safe, where loyal clients know they will safely receive first class service and where business owners and directors know they are building a profitable business that will continue to thrive in the future irrespective of what the world throws at them.

Wondering why I used a picture of elephants?  Because they protect and nurture their herd, just as employers protect and nurture their employees!

Looking for help to profitably pivot, create a safe, supportive environment for employees returning to work after Covid-19 lockdown?  Contact me, Gail, your business psychologist, business strategist and wellbeing consultant.