It’s been over a year since Singapore reported its first Covid-19 case and. companies are now considering allowing employees to return back to work with certain restrictions still in place. Earlier in March, the Safe Management Measures allowed 75% of employees in the office at a given time and has now reduced to 50%. The rules and restrictions keep changing, but what may not change for some time is the new normal of working.
The details of each employer's plan to return will look different, but here are our top 7 recommendations for things employers will need to consider as more employees return to the workplace.
As the risk of Covid-19 transmissions still stays high, companies must ensure that the offices are cleaned and sanitized after every shift or every day depending on when the employees’ batches change. This includes common areas such as toilets, coffee machines, break-out areas, lifts and lobbies. Many commercial rental spaces like the 1557 Keppel offices provide sanitization of the common areas as part of building management, which under these circumstances is a huge value add.
Depending on how your office space was designed before, you might need to restructure it to take into account the social distancing and safety guidelines. To create more space, you can move some of the stuff like old files, regulatory documents, and any extra furniture temporarily to an industrial self-storage for rent. You may also decide to take extra commercial property on rent as a supplementary office to ensure social distancing among employees. Many commercial properties like those listed at LHN SpacePortal have units available in all sizes ranging from small to big which you can rent for storage or as office space.
It can be awkward for employees to refuse to get together for coffee or meetings even if they strongly want to maintain social distancing. To avoid any misunderstandings or confusion it is better to clearly define social distancing and hygiene protocols so that all employees have clarity about the dos and don’ts. It’s a good idea to send out an official email to all employees for this purpose.
A common practice being followed in some European countries is to allow employees to wear wristbands or badges of red, green or yellow colour. Red signifies that the person would like to strictly maintain a social distancing at all times, yellow means they are somewhat relaxed but still would follow all guidelines, and green means they are fine socializing.
For employees returning to work after the lockdown, it is going to be a re-adjustment in their daily routine, including their routine in the office. A small welcome kit consisting of snacks, masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, and a small booklet explaining the protocols could make them more comfortable. In offices where some equipment like printers or stationery is shared, you can provide hand sanitizers near all such equipment so that employees can sanitize it before and after they use it.
As mandated by the Government of Singapore, all employers are advised to stagger the work hours of their employees such that there is no crowding or rush hours in public transport. Try to schedule the shifts as per the convenience of your workers where possible. This will enable them to plan their work hours while adjusting their personal needs and help reduce stress for them as they adapt to the changing environment. For example, if schools are closed and kids have to stay home, parents may want to plan their work hours to ensure one of them is at home when the other goes to office. Allowing flexibility in work schedule can make all the difference in retaining good employees.
While social gatherings at work continue to be restricted, it is still possible to encourage employees to stay connected as a team. Some events like theme days, talent shows and floor games can be organized with social distancing. Many companies are organizing online team-building activities like virtual games, treasure hunts, etc. to build team spirit among employees. Celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries online with special messages from team members can make employees feel connected to the organization.
The psychological impact of the pandemic is now becoming visible amongst a lot of people. Eight out of ten Singaporeans interviewed in a survey have reported feeling stressed due to the disruption to lifestyle caused by Covid-19. Can employers do anything about it? Of course! Some of the companies have started organising relaxation workshops, yoga & fitness classes, and mental health counseling for their employees. It is even more important to be understanding for high-at-risk employees like those differently-abled or above the age of 50 to make provision for them to work safely and stress-free.
Some employees may be suffering or have recently recovered from Covid-19. Their teams should be encouraged to manage work such that the employee can start back, maybe for a few hours initially and then increase work as he or she feels better.
‘Work’ as we knew pre-Covid may have changed forever. The only way we, as businesses can see through this change with minimum damage, is by having a team that works towards the organization’s needs. To gain and retain talent, and to get the best of their team, employers will need to be mindful of their employees’ fast-changing needs now more than ever!