• Paresha Kala and Kate Powell

Fresh obligations for Employers as “New Normal” commences after Lockdown

Once society begins “life as normal” following the COVID-19 lockdown, employers will need to ensure a safe working environment for employees, with not only hygiene but also physical, psychological and intellectual measures in place for an indefinite period, say Paresha Kala and Kate Powell, senior consultants from Health Management Solutions at Alexander Forbes.

As we await government’s update on what the lockdown regulations will be after 30 April 2020, we begin to define what the “new normal” looks like – an ongoing process as we become accustomed to the benefits it may bring, such as reduced time spent in traffic as virtual meetings grow in popularity.

In looking after our employees’ psychological and emotional needs, we should remember that everyone has had a different experience of lockdown and will all have different needs on returning to the workplace.

With this in mind, employers will have to put measures in place once the doors to the workplace reopen.

Make the working environment safe

Implement these preventative measures:

  • Ideally scan temperatures of employees, visitors and contract workers and keep a visitors’ logbook.

  • Encourage employees to stay home if they are sick.

  • Maintain regular housekeeping practices, which include routine cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and equipment regularly.

  • Work at own workspace instead of sharing equipment or workstations.

  • Develop a plan of action if employees develop symptoms of the virus.

  • Avoid large meetings and limit them to the number of attendees. Continue internal as well as client meetings but prefer virtual conferencing where possible.

  • Avoid hugging or shaking hands with your colleagues, meeting social distancing recommendations of keeping at least two metres between you and another person. This includes seating arrangements as well as casual engagements.

  • Avoid crowded lifts and rather use the stairs or the escalators.

  • Prepare your care kit for employees, which includes hand sanitiser, face masks, and hand gloves.

  • Encourage employees to wear face masks and wash their hands as soon as they reach home or work.

  • Provide wipes for handbags or briefcases, which often carry the most germs.

  • Maintain the 20 second protocol for handwashing, and provide paper towels and a closed pedal bin for them to be disposed in.

Look after employees’ psychological and emotional needs

The stress of managing work-life integration has never been more important than it will be after the COVID-19 outbreak. Employees could develop symptoms of stress-related disorders, including low mood, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, emotional exhaustion, and depression. This may be attributed to the fear of becoming sick, risk of infection, losing a loved one, as well as the prospect of financial hardship as a result of the economic recession.

In addition to the impact on our economy and businesses, one cannot discount the impact that the lockdown has had on people’s social well-being. This includes the above emotional effects, but when looking at the impact on workplace relationships and social management, the lockdown has changed the way we engage with colleagues as well as clients.

Promote building healthy relationships

Consider how to support managers and employees to develop and maintain healthy relationships both within the workplace and with external parties. This will promote improved emotional well-being as well as foster healthy workplace relationships to support productivity. Aspects to consider include: