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Employer and Employee relations have always been a tricky thing to achieve. However, the need for having a great employer-employee relationship might never have been the need of the hour as it is now- In this aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

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Every organization small or big is grappling with coming to terms of this sudden change in the working model and employment situation as well as more importantly -remote working.

Business across industry domains are constantly evolving to accommodate the short term and long-term changes getting introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In these dire times Business Analytics and data collected will help the organization in predicting varied need in the future:

  • Decode productivity trends (Like during remote working and in office)
  • Manpower needs
  • Understand employee engagement levels etc

As this global COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, businesses are in return forced to reshape their working style for achieving better productivity and stay afloat amidst an economic crisis.

However, in lieu of recent relaxed measures of allowing employees to return to work under stringent guidelines by the government, it’s imperative for organizations, to regroup, plan their strategy to manage and cope with their employees returning to the office and think of how to keep all of them safe and virus free.

This move of asking their employees to return to work from the office will be possible only if organizations continue to support their staff in all ways possible,

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Why is a good Employer-employee relationship necessary?

Studies have shown that organizations that nurtured healthy and positive employee-employer relationships had more satisfied, loyal, and productive employees.

This is obviously a win -win situation for an organization to be in.

A strong employer-employee relationship paves the way for a sturdy foundation on which one can build an organization that will be capable to sustain under any crisis.

quote on employer employee relation

With the sudden onset of COVID-19, most organizations had to close almost suddenly with no clear plan of action.

The companies that had invested to nurture the employer-employee relation probably did not have much groundwork to do to manage the change in the employment situation and made a quick switch over to remote working and had an almost negligible dip in their productivity.

Benefits of strong employer-Employee relationship

Having a well-established employer-employee relationship further attribute to:

  • Better overall productivity
  • A welcoming and healthier, work atmosphere/culture
  • More passionate and engaged employees
  • Smoother communication between employer and employees
  • Increased employee retention and fewer exits
  • Improved returns on investments in L&D initiatives
  • An overall increase in revenue due to more industrious employees

support employees in COVID-19

Although most of the organizations across industries are embracing the “new normal” of the employment situation of working from home by strategizing their work, the burning question still remains of how long is this going to be for?

Those who can afford or include roles within their organization to remotely work from Home have already done the same to increase the dip in their productivity.

In fact, some companies like Twitter, Square, Zillow are even looking at permanent working from home.

In the words of Squares CEO Jack Dorsey “We have learned a lot about what it takes for people to effectively perform roles outside of an office, and we will continue to learn as we go”

Appears Jack Dorsey is not alone.

According to a survey conducted by Garner, 74% of CFO’s predicted most of their employees to continue working from home even after the Pandemic is over. 

 However, there is no harm in being prepared right?

With recent relaxations from the government on COVID-19 restrictions and lockdown, companies are rebuilding their strategies to bring back their employees to work from the office.

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But the million-dollar question now is are the companies really prepared to allow employees to return to work from the office?

Steps to ensure you are ready to allow employees to work from office

Just having thoughts of reopening may not be the answer here.  The organizations or companies together need to take proper actions to ensure that the COVID-19 stays contained and they for their part do not cause reason to spread it further.

So let’s look at some ways where companies can prep up and stay aware of the precautions to take while reopening and functioning a company post-COVID-19.

#Sanitization is the prima focus:

Blog.sanitizeoffice.com sanitize your office in COVID-19

  • Surfaces like desks, meeting rooms, chairs, etc as well as most used objects like telephone, switchboards, keyboards, should be properly wiped with disinfectant at regular intervals.
  • Maintain clean and hygienic conditions in washrooms and cafeteria, Lifts, and other common areas.
  • Check on the alternative methods of providing better air quality to avoid Air conditioning as much as possible. Eg) openings windows etc
  • Increase the cleaning of the office space by the cleaning staff

#Seating arrangement

Gensler.com change seating arrangements IN COVID-19

  • Check the overall square feet area of your office.
  • Redesign the seating arrangement to ensure that the recommended social distance between employees is always maintained to avoid the spread of any droplets /infection
  • This will also help you to ascertain how many employees (from your overall headcount) can you accommodate working full time from office post COVID-19
  • Furthermore, prepare a rota so that you get to call in all of your employees to the office on a rotation basis
  • Cubicle workspaces should be preferred over the open-plan office model

#Availability of sanitization resources

Economictimes.indiatimes.com sanitization essential in COVID-19

  • Ensure that you are all stocked up on Hand wash, sanitizers, wipes, etc for your employees
  •  The cleaning accessories like handwash, sanitizers, etc should be made readily available for employees across the office in designated areas as well as in most used places like cafeteria, break rooms, and of course meeting rooms.
  • Keep some masks in storage so as to provide in case of need

#Putting up of proper Signs and instructions

Graphicproducts.com designate areas in office for social distancing in COVID-19

  • Mark the seats that should be left empty in meeting rooms to ensure social distancing norms are met
  • Use floor tape to designate areas of ideal spacing to stand in lines, elevators, etc
  • Mark the maximum occupancy allowed for common areas/meeting rooms/cafeteria etc at any given point of time

#Invest in proper medical equipment and first aid

Diversey.com buy proper medical equipment in office to check for COVID-19

  • Arrange for daily COVID-19 symptoms and temperature screening and other health vitals to be taken of the employees before they enter the office space.
  • Keep a check of whether the employees who are coming to the office are wearing a proper mask

Now that the office premises are more or else prepared for the incoming of the employees, as a company you need to now look at ways you can continue to provide support to your employees.

With the current dynamic employment situation, it’s essential that the safety and well-being of your employees be kept as your company’s main point of concern.

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Let’s look at some of my suggestions to make your employees comfortable as well as appreciate your support:

1. Be Flexible

Even though you may be looking at bringing your total workforce back to a full-time work mode from office, however, we all know it may not be a realistic approach in the current employment situation under the COVID-19 scenario.

As there may be numerous underlying factors that may be deterrent for the same.

Like the availability of less office space to maintain social distancing for the staff,   recuperating staff from COVID-19, government norms not allowing 100% staff back, etc.

Charliehr.com be flexible while supporting your employees in COVID-19

But above all that you should have a foolproof manpower plan ready in order to achieve the balance.

You may have a mix-bag of some employees preferring to work from the office while some wanting to continue to work from home. 

These employees may still be having children at home due to schools being shut, with no childcare support.  Or they may be taking care of a family member recovering from COVID-19 or it may be for any other reason.

This will further press the need for continued remote working in those cases.

Hence be flexible in your policies allowing employees to choose whether to work from home or office.

With the ease of technology, your employees can easily stay connected whether working from office or home.

Hence offering a rotational shift to employees of a team or project to work from home and office will effectively assist in meeting the company goals and objectives as well as maintain productivity.

Additionally, this will enable your employees to have a positive state of mind and be more productive as an end result.

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2. Keep open-ended communication with employees

One of the essential aspects here is to nurture a healthy and easy communication with your employees,

According to a survey done by Harvard Business Review, 43% of employees who receive transparent and regular updates from their organization look forward to going back to work for them and 55% of employees feel proud to be an employee for that organization.

Clear communication about the company’s way forward, plan of action, any change in policies through Memo’s, bulletins, announcements will provide much-needed assurance to your employees about the stability and future of their career.

irishtimes.com two way communication is important in this employment situation

Keeping in mind that huge gatherings cannot be held during these COVID-19 times, hence a video message from the management head or a detailed email, etc, regarding the way forward to the employees will be another positive approach.

Regular communication should also be maintained with employees to understand their welfare as well as that of their family.

The communication should always be kept two way.

Therefore, it is essential that as an organization, you must also take regular feedback from your employees to understand which of the steps taken from your end for the welfare of your employees score high.

In addition, you will also get to learn what further needs to done for making your employees feel safe and more comfortable.

Amidst this crisis and dire employment situation where each and every individual is affected in some way or the other, being empathetic towards your employees in such times will go a long way for you as well as your organization.

According to  a survey conducted by the clutch  (a leading ratings and reviews platform in IT, business services, and marketing) found the below decisions taken by their employers as significant:

  • 23% of the survey responders felt better when they received advice about remote work
  • 13% surveyors voted for their readjusted employee goals or metrics as the best decision of their employees
  • 11% gave credit to the community events or virtual social events organized by their organization
  • 21% felt good about being provided with professional counseling or therapy services
  • 14% found increased paid time off or sick leave to be the best option offered

3. Family Health insurance/Family-friendly policies

Being considerate and proactively working towards supporting your employee is another key to making your employees comfortable in returning to work.

Providing family-friendly policies, and family/Group health insurance will lessen the financial worries of your employees, in turn making them more productive.

Youngparents.com.sg insurance helps in this employment situation

Through a corporate group Insurance policy generally, the employee as well as his nominated family members can cover the hospitalization expenses. Some even extend to reimbursement of medicines etc.

To further support employees in this employment situation amidst COVID-19 you can add family-friendly policies like paid leave to maybe take care of an ill family member, flexible working hours, etc for further supporting your employees.

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4. Providing counseling for the mental well-being of employees

While operational and logistical planning is essential for the physical safety of the employees returning to work premises, equally, their mental health is also to be given considerable thought and importance.

The overall employee state during these COVID-19 striven times are mostly filled with stress due to general fear of contracting COVID-19, children needing home-schooling, insecure employment situation, lengthy isolation, job security, salary cuts, or loss of income due to loss of job of the partner, a family member being ill, etc

It’s beneficial for both you as an employer and the employee if the company invests in either giving free access to trained medical practitioners through telecalls/Video calls etc as an emotional helpline or by building ‘mental health programs’ to address the stress, insecurity, and uncertainty concerns of the employees.

The company can additionally offer perks like reimbursements towards any wellness program that the employee enrolls into, may it be an online yoga class, any paid workout apps, etc

Online.grace.edu mental health is to be safeguarded in this employment situation

Moreover, the general anxiety over how the employment situation is going to progress and dealing with issues of insecurity hampers the peace of mind.

17% managed by having a proper work schedule

24% felt better post getting in touch with their friends and family more often

Another 24% could manage stress through exercise

Eating more nutritiously made 14% feel better

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5. Provide training to managers on how to support employees by team-building exercises

Every organization needs to revamp their working style as well as provide adequate training to its management team in order to ascertain and set expectations for both managers and employees amidst these changing employment situations.

In all likelihood, employees returning to work need to be reassured and given scalable targets and goals initially to boost their morale.

Kaplanfinancial.com train your managers in how to support your employees in COVID-19

The entire working style will change now keeping in mind that the entire staff may not be present together in the same place. There needs to be proper communication between onsite staff and remote working staff.

The new norms of social distancing like avoiding handshakes, close interactions, etc may further hamper the growth and personality of employees who are were naturally outgoing and confident.

On the other hand, managers have to step up to take responsibility for the well-being of their employees by acting as an emotional support anchor. They should keep a tab on their employee’s physical and mental state of affairs.

In addition, they can provide a platform for the employees to voluntarily share if they want any issues concern at home, dip in performance, etc.

The organization must also not set stringent short-term goals and expect an overnight increase in productivity. There should a gradual increase in the workload and targets with the more long-term objectives of the company in mind.

Though people management skills are the part and parcel of a managerial role, not everyone may be able to have perfect skills on managing their employees remotely, or especially the different types of stress during this COVID-19 crisis.

Therefore, training towards enlightening the manager on the role of a counselor and ways to take responsibility for the physical and mental well-being of their employees will aid the managers to perform their role in a better way.

Training should also be provided to all the employees on the Dos and Don’ts along with the list of safety precautions that they need to follow for the welfare of all when they restart coming to the office.

Another key aspect is that of team-building activities. When you have a hybrid team working model (i.e half team in remote working and the other at the office) the need for team building activities becomes of utmost importance.

Due to prolonged isolation and being away from human interactions, such activities will enable you to :

  • Nurture better inter-team communication
  • Build up team morale
  • Be able to keep up the motivation of your team
  • Engage employees effectively
  • Manage employee situations on a daily basis
  • Improve overall productivity

The managers should be encouraged to have at least weekly 1:1 interaction with employees for providing support, solutions, etc. Even with social distancing, one can continue to show empathy and support to one another by being a strong support system.

6. Child care assistance

Many of the employees during COVID-19 will be having to manage work from home along with the homeschooling of their children. Their regular child care assistance center or help may be unavailable adding further to their stress.

Also, in some cases, the stress could be more because they may be a single parent or have no child-care support.

Wmq.org.au child care help will further help employees in this COVID-19employment situation

Many companies have already set the example by including child care benefit during COVID-19, like Netflix, Amazon, Nvidia etc.

By providing carefully screened in-house or virtual child care assistance to the employees, you will be supporting your employee situation considerably.

If you are not able to provide child care assistance then, providing flexible work hours will help your employees to efficiently juggle work and home without hampering their efficiency and productivity.

7. Have a well-detailed contingency plan

Last but not the least is that you must present a proper contingency plan to your employees which outlines the do’s and dont’s in case of an outbreak in the company much prior to when you reopen your office premises.

Arcadehotel.nl proper contingency plan for COVID-19

When you communicate a clear course of action to the employees, you would be instilling in them the faith in the safety measure employed by the organization and confidence in coming back to work amidst these COVID-19 situations.

The contingency plan should outline:

  • The dos and don’ts if there is an outbreak in office after re-opening.
  • Closing the office premises for the designated time period as per the health services department.
  • It should cover steps to be followed like, staying at home, isolating themselves, and understanding if their symptoms are mild or severe.
  • Suggest to the employees to maintain a record of the colleagues/customers/clients they have had interactions with when they re-join office on a day to day basis. This data can be referred easily in case of an outbreak.
  • Try to keep the health-records and testing information of the employees as private as possible.
  • Encourage employees not to panic and to avoid to outcast those who test COVID-19 positive, but to take the necessary precautions and be supportive.
  • Provide the employees with the list of contact details of hospitals and health agencies they can get in touch within the case of emergencies.
  • Arrange for transport and keep it readily available for employees to be transferred to a hospital in case of any emergencies while in office.
  • Designate volunteers amongst employees who could also act as counselors and be available for their designated employees in case of need for quick access.

COVID-19 pandemic has made employers understand the resourcefulness of their employees.

Across industries, employees have been able to successfully navigate through Remote working to be able to keep their productivity high. In some cases, even when remote working was not the working norms of the organization.

Additionally, there have been unsung heroes in the form of on-site employees who took the risk and provided the necessary on-site support for their facilities and industries to continue working smoothly.

However, even though the employees may have made the transition successfully, COVID-19 and the everchanging employment situation are constantly putting them under tremendous pressure and stress.

Hence, continued support from their companies and positive reinforcement of their contribution through mature leadership will help both the employees and companies to tide over this crisis successfully and –TOGETHER.

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