In the health and safety department, a lot has changed in a mere 14 or so months. Let’s take a look at some of the health and safety changes in the workplace we’re expecting to see this year and how they’re going to complement each other in creating a better workplace.
While 2020 may have taken us by storm, the least we can say for 2021 is that we are a bit more prepared for most of the challenges we expect to grace us with their presence.
Working From Home Isn’t Going Anywhere
The major workplace shift we saw in 2020 is, of course, the widespread adoption of remote work. And it has proven to managers everywhere that an employee does not need to be within arm’s reach in order to do a good job.
The death of micromanagement is just one of the positive consequences of working from home, but there are significant challenges that have come with it. One of them is regulating at-home safety, which is not in the jurisdiction of the employer. That leaves a lot of health and safety concerns and practices in the hands of the employee.
However, what you can (and should) do is provide online training on working from home safely and securely. Discussing topics like chair and desk setup as well as the importance of breaks, exercise, and a set routine can all help your employees feel better about remote work.
Those who are returning to work will be faced with their own set of challenges. These challenges mainly have to do with implementing social distancing measures while still managing to do their jobs efficiently. Apart from the most basic measures we’re all familiar with, try to create a set of procedures that is unique to your space and your line of work. Consider where to place hand sanitizers, how to take care of the office trash, how to ensure you have socially distanced meetings in a limited space, etc.
The more general guidelines governments have issued should serve as your basis, but make sure you take them further and adjust them to fit your workspace and your employees. This does not mean forgoing them, however, no matter how difficult implementing them might be. If you don’t have enough space in the office, only bring parts of your team back to work. Also, consider waiting for everyone to be vaccinated before you remove physical barriers between people.
The importance of mental health in the workplace has only been highlighted during 2020, and 2021 needs to accept all of the changes that we are now collectively facing. Start by coming to terms with the fact that a lot of your employees may have developed a mental health issue or challenge they didn’t have previously. This could be anything from mild to severe anxiety, panic disorder or depression, PTSD, OCD, agoraphobia, and so on.
The most important thing here is to cultivate a judgment-free environment of acceptance and understanding. Some of the ways to help employees manage their mental health include:
- Providing counseling
- Organizing workshops on the importance of mental health and different practices that can help employees take care of it
- Giving employees more days off
- Offering the option to work from home
- Allowing a more flexible work schedule
As they return to work, most employees will have likely become more aware of the potential risks involved. Naturally, they might have plenty of their own ideas about making the workplace safer in the future. Make sure you capitalize on their ideas and experiences, create safety measures in your workplace, and ask everyone to contribute. They can offer advice, point out potential issues they’ve spotted, or share their own experiences with workplace health and safety.
Ensure there is no backlash of any kind and that everyone feels safe to voice their opinions and concerns, especially if they relate to mental health. If you’re not able to accommodate a request or address an issue at the moment, let your employees know that you are still aware of it and that you’re going to be dealing with it as soon as possible.
Start by applying key metrics to predict safety performance. Risk management and safety protocols will still be just as important as they once were, but with a twist. You now need to take Covid into consideration too. That’s why it’s often a good idea to hire a professional to assess the situation in your workplace regarding all things health and safety. This can give you the chance to identify previously undiscovered hazards and determine how your safety measures are faring today. It will help take a weight off everyone’s mind, knowing that everything is being done to ensure the health and safety of your employees.
For the more technical and spatial issues, you’ll want to tackle this inspection before everyone comes back to work. But ideally, you’ll also have someone examine the space and your protocols with real people present. That way, everyone can get a chance to add their input to the process, ensuring nothing is missed or overlooked.
Workplace Health and Safety Changes
The workplace health and safety trends we’ve discussed here have all hopefully already been on your radar. Perhaps you’ve already implemented or begun implementing processes that will help you tackle them if they arise. If not, we hope we have helped highlight some of the major issues for you, and that you are now better equipped to face them head-on.