Amidst the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, three simple pieces of advice resonate: wash your hands, cover your cough, and avoid sick people. Good practices to remember long after anxiety over the outbreak subsides.
To ensure the health and well-being of employees, employers should push out similar messages and take special precautions to ensure a safe work environment during the crisis. Those recommendations, which are vital during a pandemic, are best practices that employers should encourage every day.
Encourage employees to call out when they are sick
A workplace culture that fuels “work martyrdom,” where employees refrain from calling out because they fear they may be perceived as replaceable or not dedicated to their jobs, benefits no one. A sick employee isn’t productive and risks getting other employees sick.
In a recent Robert Half survey, 90% of employees admitted they’ve come to the office while experiencing cold or flu symptoms. The most common reasons for choosing to work while ill include: too much work to do (54%), not wanting to use a sick day (40%), and pressure from their employer (34%).
There are ways to curb this mindset and encourage employees to call out when they’re sick. Perhaps the most impactful is to lead by example. If employees see management using sick time, they will feel less hesitant to call out. Cross train your team so they can step in for each other when needed can also help ease their apprehension.
Finally, review all sick leave policies and applicable laws that cover absences to ensure your practices are not only fair, but compliant.
Promote good hygiene
OSHA has published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 that includes basic measures employers should take to prevent an infection. The advice centers around good hygiene practices that all workplaces should adopt.
- Provide workers access to a place to wash their hands. If that’s not feasible, provide an effective alternative like alcohol-based sanitizers
- Provide employees and customers with tissues and trash receptacles
- Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, and work tools and equipment
- Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and workstations
Encourage a culture of wellness
Demonstrate your organization’s commitment to the health and wellness of its employees by implementing a wellness program. Doing so improves absenteeism, productivity, and retention. Wellness programs are designed to improve the work environment so that it is easier for employees to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors.
In addition to happier, healthier, more engaged employees, wellness programs can save you money in the long term. In fact, Health Affairs estimates that every $1 spent on wellness, saves corporations $3 in healthcare costs.
When crafting a wellness initiative, SHRM suggests including the following common programs:
- Stress reduction
- Weight loss
- Smoking cessation
- Health risk assessments
- Health screenings.
- Exercise programs and activities
- Nutrition education
- Vaccination clinics
There’s no denying the benefits of promoting health and wellness in the workplace. If one positive is to come from the COVID-19 outbreak, let it be the commitment to building a stronger, healthier workforce.
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