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  • Jennifer Walchuck

Dealing with Covid in your Workplace

It is here to stay...what are your obligations? How do you plan to help your people?



Employers are starting to welcome their employees back to the office as public health restrictions for Covid-19 begin to ease. The main reasons for this are the decrease in active and new cases of Covid-19 as well as an increase in vaccination rates. This move towards reopening is not only exciting but also brings new situations for organizations to manage, as not every person feels comfortable returning to “normal”. Here are some things to consider when returning employees to the office:


Your employee’s mental health & wellness


The pandemic has caused the mental health of all age groups to decline, according to a Statistics Canada report released in October of 2020. Though some employees will be excited and happy to come back to the office, others might feel anxious and stressed about this change. There are many factors that could contribute to an employee’s comfort level including being immunocompromised or having an immunocompromised family, having unvaccinated family members due to age or other medical conditions, increased anxiety, etc. When possible, give employees time to adjust to the change and be open to having honest conversations with your employees about what they need to feel comfortable with the change. Also, if possible, in situations where employees have been successful with working from home, consider allowing them to continue to work from home. A hybrid model of some days at home and some days in the office may be appealing to employees and help them adjust to our new “normal”. It will be important to have a clear policy on this topic and set clear expectations for this to be successful.


Covid-19 is not completely gone


Though the number of infectious continues to drop in Canada we are not yet at zero and there are new variants surfacing. This means that your employees, even vaccinated ones, might still need to isolate if they are a close contact or if they contract Covid-19 or one of the variants. Many provinces and the federal government have implemented Covid-19 unpaid job protected leaves so employees can take time off if they are exposed. Know the applicable legislation in your province to avoid Employment Standards complaints.


You can still require masks


Despite mask mandates being lifted by provinces, there are some businesses that are requiring their employees and visitors to wear masks when inside the business. This may be something you consider to help employees feel more comfortable in the workplace.


Vaccinations


Not all employees will choose to get vaccinated but, in some circumstances, employers can require employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine. If, as an employer, you want to require employees to get vaccinated you should consult with an HR Professional or Employment Lawyer to ensure that this is a requirement that you can enforce. Keep in mind there may be individuals who have a medical or religious reason for not getting vaccinated and they would be protected under Human Rights legislation from being required to be vaccinated.


The return to the office may impact your attrition.

According to a Robert Half survey of more than 500 workers in Canada 33% of employees are more burned out today than a year ago and 43% want to emphasize personal life over their job moving forward. Combine that with a recent poll by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies that found just 20% of employees want to return to the office every day, it is going to be particularly important how employers approach the return to the office. Not enough willingness to look at options around work-life balance particularly when it comes to flexible work arrangements, time off, and workloads may drive employees to look at organizations that offer flexibility. There is no one way to approach a return to the workplace following Covid-19 as every organization will have its own unique challenges and every employee has their own unique needs. Taking the time to talk to employees and listen to their concerns will not only help you figure out the path forward, but it may also ease the stress for your employees. As part of the path forward, Synergy HR Consulting can help develop a unique approach for your organization that aligns with your culture and helps retain your employees.

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