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Employees Do Not Want to Return to the Office: Help Them Feel Safe

More than half of all adults in the United States have been fully inoculated with the vaccine against COVID-19. It has resulted in a significantly lower number of positive cases daily than the peak recorded in January 2021. This has resulted in the loosening of pandemic-related restrictions in many states. In fact, live concerts are back and the first music festival was held since a global public health crisis was announced in early 2020.

For many adults, returning to the office after a year of working from home is inevitable. But with a new variant spreading and the number of people who refuse to get the vaccine against COVID-19, risks remain.

Not Going Back

In fact, a survey conducted earlier this year revealed that 68 percent of workers, not just in the U.S. but globally, do not feel completely safe to go back to the office. Nearly one in four (23 percent) of the workers who participated in the survey said they are willing to look for another job if asked to work on a site that does not implement proper safety measures for employees.

Another survey found that one in 10 employees do not believe that they will feel comfortable again around other people in a working environment even if safety measures are being followed.

Communicate Precautions

There is so much anxiety around going back to work, and it stems from the fear of contracting the virus. One way to assure that workers are protected from infection while at the office is to inform how the company is taking precautions.

Companies should, first of all, keep the office sanitized. While COVID-19 mostly spreads via droplets and aerosols, there are other illnesses that can be passed on by touching a surface. The tables in the pantry, for example, can be a space where multiple people congregate to eat and talk. It can be a source of flu infection.

Tell employees that the company hires a commercial cleaning service to come in and disinfect common-traffic areas throughout the office. That way, there will not be fear that they will get sick from using office equipment.

It is also important to discuss ventilation. Not all offices have appropriate ventilation which will lower the risk of infections. Speak to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals when considering changes to the systems and equipment currently in place. Safe indoor air is a requirement to lower the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in an enclosed space.

Vaccination is the best way to protect the office from becoming an infection hotspot, but the decision to get the jab is a personal one. Some employers may not want to get involved in the choices their employees make regarding their own health. However, since the impact of one person’s refusal to get the vaccine affects everyone, it should be discussed with the entire team.

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Strengthen Relationship Between Management and Staff

The pandemic should be taken as an opportunity for employers to build a closer connection with staff. Bosses should pause barking orders to their team every once in a while and, instead, check up on their well-being.

Employees are human beings, and the past year has been challenging. It caused high levels of stress across the entire population. Some even experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression. People are understandably shaken after living through a pandemic and one of the worst recessions in recent years.

For employees to once again feel safe, they need to know that their employers care for them. Companies should develop and implement physical, mental, emotional, and financial programs to support their overall well-being. Workers cannot be productive if they are facing challenges. They also are unlikely to work for employers who do not care about the well-being of employees, especially now that there is still a deadly virus going around.

Sometimes, it is as easy as having regular chats with the team to ask how everyone is doing. That way, employers will hear each worker’s difficulties that prevent them from going back to the office. For example, child care is a concern now that schools are closed and offices go back to normal. Many are also likely experiencing mental and emotional distress from the pandemic.

Hearing them out and maybe providing aid by giving them access to childcare services or mental health clinics will enable them to return to the office without a hitch.

Going back to normal will require adjustments. For over a year, many have gotten used to working from home. Now that restrictions are loosening, many are reluctant to return to life before the pandemic.

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