As the federal government and various state governments in the US continue to release new guidelines and updates for workplace safety, organizations face new challenges of aligning the new protocols with employee sentiment for their safe return to the office. Is your enterprise ready for return-to-workplace in the new normal?

Re-imagining workplace

In addition to the existing workforce safety guidelines, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has introduced COVID-19 safety recommendations to reduce the spread of coronavirus at the premises. OSHA has also issued guidelines to help employers create a safer working environment for their employees and facilitate vaccination drives. There were also guidelines on contact proximity, duration, vaccination, paid time off, wearing of masks, sanitization, and more. Employers looking to bring back their employees to the workplace should adhere to all the mandates laid down by CDC, OSHA, and other bodies.

Most importantly,  employers must keep a tab on all the applicable OSHA standards that are updated from time to time.

OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard

Recently, the White House Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has issued guidance to agencies such as OSHA on implementing COVID-19 vaccination mandate for federal contractors. Previously, one such mandate was issued for employers of private companies who have more than 100 employees.

While employers were expecting OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard for more clarity, the federal government also started issuing new mandates, further confusing employers about the protocols and executing them. 

What employees feel about returning to work?

Navigating through the noise and uncertainties of the pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges for businesses across the globe. While they had to adapt to new ways at a faster pace to keep the operations going, the availability of vaccines, the dwindling number of cases and employees who have taken their doses, etc. have dawned a new challenge upon employers. Now as the dust settles in slowly, when organizations are planning to open their premises, are employees really ready for the new normal? With the latest CDC rules,  vaccination drives,  and other measures, do employees feel safe about returning to the workplace?

Here are some of the findings from global online research:

  • 41% of employees are concerned that preventive measures and policies are either ineffectively implemented or not enforced at all
  • 40% are concerned about working in proximity to a sick or unvaccinated coworker
  • 37% report they would consider a job switch if they feel their health information privacy is not maintained at the workplace

According to various sources, major employee concerns have been privacy of their health information, clarity in return to office and workplace policies, and efficiency in implementing those policies. Even though employees do have their reservations, 90% of employees say that they miss their workplace and are willing to return if their employer has an efficient back-to-work plan.

Tips for building a faster return-to-office strategy

As discussed earlier in this article, most employees are willing to return to the office if their employer had a robust plan for a safe working environment. The findings from studies show that employees want clear hygiene protocols laid down. 

Thus, for planning a faster return to the office, you need to create a detailed plan to assure your employees. However, you should follow all the return-to-office guidelines laid down by CDC, OSHA, and other authorities. Employers must keep in mind the frequent updates and federal announcements in order to remain compliant and reduce confusion among employees.

Phase 1: Proactive planning

Looking at building a well-thought back-to-office plan amid the availability of vaccines, changing OSHA rules, and new COVID variants, employers must align it skillfully to ensure the trust is maintained.

As mentioned above,  the Federal Government announced new vaccination rules for employers with 100 or more employees. While employers anticipate OSHA to release the Emergency Temporary Standard, it’s time to work with the available information and prepare in advance.

Before creating a plan to incorporate new mandates, check whether the new rules are applicable to you. You know the vaccination status of your workforce and their intent on getting the doses.  Because the rules keep changing, it’s important that you track COVID-related and vaccine-related information of your employees. Right employee data will give you a better insight to create a detailed action plan, and reduce any last-minute chaos

Related reading: How to prepare for the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard?

Phase 2: Build clear policies

Once you have put together a robust plan, you should build clear policies that provide employees the much-needed clarity regarding return to work. While you are creating policies, make sure you note all the essential data and rules. Try to address all the important aspects of return to the office and government mandates to reduce confusion among employees. Include details such as break times, vaccination guidelines, weekly test guidelines, paid-time-off rules, penalties, deadlines, and more.

Phase 3: Implement

After policies are finalized, it’s time to implement the same across your organization. It should start with proper communication. Employees should be well-informed about all the policy changes and updates. Thus, you must prepare communication memos and emails beforehand. Apart from all the above,  employers must also make sure employees have a point of contact whom they can reach out to for clarifications and concerns. Automation can help roll out the  policies in a faster and efficient manner. Many organizations are investing in the right software solutions that can assist them in making their return-to-office smoother and safer.

Future-proof your return-to-workplace plan with the right solution

Automating your return to the workplace helps in accelerating the same while ensuring that you are compliant with rules laid down by CDC, OSHA, and other authorities.

Here is how automating your return-to-workplace plan can help:

Tracking of status

OSHA’s new Emergency Temporary Standard will require you to keep track of your workforce vaccination status. The data will help choose whether you should organize vaccination drives or choose weekly testing.

Check Out: Appian’s Workforce Safety Solution page to learn how it simplifies tracking vaccination, testing, and contact tracing.

Compliance

With the right data about employee vaccination and testing, a solution helps you comply with the new rules. In case of frequent updates in rules or the introduction of mandates, you use the data to make changes in your plan and policies.

Employee trust

Automation helps in implementing your policies better by reducing all the manual and record-keeping tasks. This allows your teams to focus completely on building and iterating policies for improved employee experience. By creating transparency, better communication, and efficient implementation, automation assures employees regarding employers’ dedication towards their health and safety.

Insights

A return-to-work solution provides insights on vaccination status, policy implementation, and other important aspects. This helps you to design better policy updates and make informed decisions.

Conclusion

As the government makes new announcements and mandates for returning to the workplace, employers need to get proactive and prepare in advance to reduce confusion, stay compliant and avoid penalties. Data is the key to better planning, policy-making, and implementation. Employers must collect vaccination and employee intent information across their enterprise to ensure they act fast and remain compliant to new standards.

Are you ready to make your return-to-office safer, compliant, and vigilant? It’s easier with Appian’s Workforce Safety Solution. Learn More

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