Properly managing health and safety in the workplace has been a requirement and necessity for decades, and recognition of its importance has increased even more so following the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employers are navigating the best ways to return to in-person work while keeping their employees healthy, safe, and comfortable. The strain of the pandemic along with other workplace stressors has also ignited a greater need for prioritizing mental health.
Health and safety practices don’t stop at the legalities demanded by OSHA, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, — companies should have an all-encompassing health and safety strategy built into the culture of their organization. Not only does this protect employees, but a good health and safety culture has many positive correlations with DEI as well.
If your organization has chosen to return to work in the office full-time or embrace a hybrid model, there are a few key areas of focus that will help you stay organized and prepare for the shift.
During the planning stage, consider these things before returning to work:
You’ll also want to reexamine your policies and procedures to reflect these changes, including things like extended work from home policies, flexible scheduling options, relaxed attendance policy to encourage sick employees to stay home, workplace safety policy (face masks, cleaning, health screenings, etc.), and social distancing guidelines.
Another important factor for a successful transition is open and transparent communication. Some communication guidelines include:
If you are looking for more tips on communication and safety download our Returning to Work Checklist.
Addressing mental health has gained more traction and importance in recent years, not only for those who experience preexisting challenges, but for everyone. Employees should feel as though their mental health is considered and nurtured as much as their physical health and safety.
Some of the biggest workplace factors that can negatively impact mental health include stressful, overwhelming, or monotonous work leading to burnout, a lack of appropriate work-life balance, poor communication practices, and a low sense of support and acknowledgement. This ultimately leads to poor employee productivity, lack of retention, and low morale and engagement.
Companies should prioritize mental health support as a core part of their culture rather than simply offering Band-Aid solutions. One study showed that what employees desired most as a “resource” was a more open culture surrounding mental health. Re-evaluation of paid time off policies, creating an environment of transparent communication, providing ongoing mental health resources, including mental health as an insurance benefit, and many other strategies can help ease these challenges.
Even more importantly, treating employees with respect and trust, recognizing and rewarding their value, and supporting appropriate work-life balance will all help improve mental health at a cultural level.
The approach companies take with diversity, equity, and inclusion practices can have a massive impact on employee health and safety. Inclusive environments allow employees to bring their authentic selves to work every day. A strong DEI plan helps promote:
The most important part of encouraging health and safety in the workplace is making it a company-wide initiative and letting all employees share their opinions, ideas, and concerns, then taking effective action on that information. The more inclusive the environment, the more invested all team members will be in maintaining a happy, healthy, and safe workplace.