Employees are slowly making their way back into the workplace and HRs of every organization need to prepare their employees for an office that looks and feels much different. Making the office virus-proof is certainly a top priority, but HRs also need to consider the emotional impact & help employees cope with stress during the current pandemic situation.  

Redesigning the physical space to accommodate limited employees may be disorienting and also the new policies & procedures may create some anxiety amongst employees. Employees also may be afraid of catching the virus from co-workers and spreading it to family members. Worse yet, some may have felt they don’t understand or simply can’t explain what they’re going through.

Creating a short welcoming video that addresses the current scenario & the psychological impacts of the pandemic, may help ease employee concerns & also help them adjust to the new working conditions.

It could be as simple as wearing a mask, sanitizing well at several touchpoints they might encounter, washing hands & social distancing, but all put together in such a way that the video prepares them emotionally for what lies ahead of them.

For example, you could completely shut down a frequently used conference room that may be too small for social distancing. On certain floors, which are frequently accessed, the doors may be removed to avoid the need to touch handles. The cafeteria may no longer offer a self-serve salad bar. Employees may even be asked to follow traffic arrows to maintain required distancing or to avoid bumping into or crossing each other.

Not just that, many HR professionals are now involved in a process they never imagined: contact tracing. 

Since the situation is quite new or unusual, questions that pop up in every workplace, industry, and state: How far should we trace back? What role do state and local health departments play? If an employee tests positive, how much deep dive is needed?

Care must be taken to ensure that HRs don’t unintentionally expose employers to legal trouble, mainly for violating confidentiality rules, while informing employees about COVID-19 exposure.

It’s quite critical that HRs don’t disclose the identity of the employee who tested positive. Eventually 90% of the time the other employees figure it out on their own but the answer needs to be, “Karen is on approved leave, and we expect her back after a couple of weeks.” This being repeated as often as needed.

At times there might be pressure on the HR professionals to reveal the names of employees who are tested positive, but HRs should treat this piece of information obtained through contact tracing as a confidential medical record and keep it separate from personnel files.

HRs should also invest their time choosing the right person to perform this type of detective work. Successful tracers not only guard the organization and employee privacy but also demonstrate a good bedside manner and can request sensitive health information from employees without making them afraid that they or their co-workers will be fired or disciplined.

Given the current situation, an organization’s contact-tracing plan or policy should be well documented and put into action. There should be no room for unpreparedness, which might internally lead to panic, anxiety,  and costly legal mistakes. It is equally important to communicate to employees what contact tracing is and its necessity at the workplace and what to expect to avoid surprises.

Also, with all the documentation in place, HRs can legally tell employees who test positive to self-quarantine and stay in strict isolation for 14 days, even if they are asymptotic or mildly symptomatic. Necessary leave policies should be incorporated if the employee is symptomatic and is unwell. Extending necessary help during the period of isolation is also a great way of establishing employee’s trust in the organization.

If a covid positive employee refuses to adhere to the new policies, which is like any refusal to work, it can be grounds for dismissal. 

Typically, employee dishonesty during contact tracing may also be grounds for termination and this needs to be communicated in the phase of welcoming back employees to work post lockdown.

Prusight uses Bluetooth technology and digital ID badges to continuously monitor social distancing. 

Please click the link below and our contact tracing experts will get in touch with you to discuss the necessary steps involved in establishing a strong contact tracing framework in the organization and also help the HRs formulate a new set of guidelines during this phase.

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