Reintroducing Employees Back to the Workplace After Quarantine

As the number of COVID-19 cases begin to decrease throughout Canada, many provinces have started to roll out strategic plans with the hopes of bringing life back to normal for Canadians. Throughout June, provinces around Canada have slowly started to reopen. At the same time, many companies have been preoccupied in preparing the procedures of reintroducing employees back to the workplace.

On June 24, Toronto and Peel Region moved to stage two of reopening, as permitted by the Government of Ontario. Facilities like hair salons and malls have been given permission to reopen, though some industries are still not allowed until stage three is implemented. Offices are permitted to open, but the Ontario Government is still suggesting to continue working from home if possible.

Although a lot of the industries that recently reopened are subject to following the same guidelines in order to promote health and safety in the workplace, the context of this blog post will focus on supporting employees in an office setting, and what considerations employers should take to ensure the wellbeing of their employees. It is important to note that these three tips can certainly be applied to other industries.

1) Implement a COVID-19 Prevention Strategy

This is a step that is crucial and mandatory, since it is of the utmost importance to prioritize the health and safety of employees. To help employers with this process, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development released a resource page to help employers and their sectors navigate safety concerns from employees that have risen from COVID-19. This resource page also links to a document from Workplace Safety and Prevention Services which particularly outlines how offices can protect their employees from possibly contracting the disease.

Some of the key takeaways from this document include the importance of emphasizing hand-washing procedures to employees, which is important in preventing the spread of the disease as recommended by the Government of Canada. In addition, offices should implement more thorough and frequent cleaning of work areas and exercise physical distancing at all times, where employees should be at least 2 metres apart from one another. Other recommendations include making the usage of masks optional, as well as reorganizing the workspace to better accommodate for physical distancing.

2) Protect the Mental Health of Employees

Before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, there was already a lot of concern and uneasiness regarding the state of the future with this unknown disease spreading globally. With many offices opting to work from home, this transition has not been easy for some, but others are not as fortunate where they have been furloughed or laid off as a result of the pandemic.

Upon COVID-19 being declared a pandemic, Canadians are feeling more stressed compared to before. In a study conducted by Nanos for the Mental Health Commission of Canada, it found that four in ten Canadians felt stress regularly or all the time because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, more Canadians have reported that their mental health is worse as a result of COVID-19.

As an employer, it is important to be mindful of the mental wellbeing of employees. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a guidebook as to how employers and employees can manage job stress.

Some of the takeaways from this guidebook include thorough communication, where employers are urged to communicate with their employees, and ensure that employees are not feeling overburdened by work. Some companies have mental health resources, and it is recommended that some companies emphasize the availability of these resources in case some employees may need access to them.

From the perspective of human resources, ensuring that the mental health of employees is supported by the employer is important in employee retention. In a 2017 report from Monster Canada, it found that stress is the one of the primary reasons as to why employees quit their job. With higher than normal stress levels as a result of COVID-19, employers should certainly pay more attention to the wellbeing of their employees.

3) Make Work From Home a Norm

Initially, some offices may have struggled to make the transition of having employees work from home. However, some companies have already prepared to make working from home a common occurrence for its employees. Earlier this year, Twitter made the announcement that all of its employees will be working from home permanently. Then, one month ago, Shopify followed suit and made the decision to also have employees work remotely.

While some companies may not be ready for this shift just yet, some should consider introducing working from home as a more common fixture. For instance, employees can work from home once or twice a week, and only have to commute three times in order to get to work. In a study conducted by Airtasker, it found that working from home has its benefits where employees are more productive, and it leads to healthier lifestyles. In addition, employees would likely prefer this as they would also save time and money from commuting.

Taking into consideration that provinces are still slowly reopening, this is a good way to slowly introduce employees back to the workplace as it is important to not overwhelm employees. Furthermore, this also complies to the Ontario government’s requirement of maintaining physical distancing in certain areas.

In the context of an office, it’s not realistic to have all employees be brought back as it will not follow the physical distancing rule of having individuals two metres apart. Offices may want to consider having a rotational basis, where employees begin to return to the office through turns, until everyone gets a chance. This will also open up the possibility for employers to receive feedback from employees about the process, and whether there is a higher preference to working from home.

How Well Street Can Help

At Well Street, we are founded on the principles of introducing healthy practices to the workplace, which encompasses both mental and physical health. Comprised of medical professionals who have a background in naturopathy, we aim to help organizations foster a healthy corporate environment in order to boost productivity and morale.

We understand that the transition of introducing employees back to the workplace can be difficult, but we can assist by communicating with your team about certain wellness practices to make the change easier.

If you would like to learn more about how our team can help your company, consider contacting us to find out more. We are happy to provide you with guidelines and approaches to support the wellbeing of your team members through virtual seminars.