As we enter 2021, Canada, as most countries are still dealing with COVID 19 and the impact of the virus across all workplaces and this appears will be the case into the summer months. Over the past few months, we have seen people, firms, politicians, and professionals all either willingly or unknowingly violate a variety of public health measures put in place to protect us all. As the response from health agencies continue it will not be uncommon to continue to see people become “weary” of these measures and violations will continue to occur.
Employers have both a duty under the Act and a general duty to ensure a safe and healthy workplace, regardless of what your employees believe or do not believe.
Here are 10 ways to help employees understand the continued need for vigilance and compliance:
1. Don’t wait
If something needs to be said, say it., if something needs to be done, do it, whether it is providing additional PPE, work from home programs, sanitization programs or simply reinforcing company policy it should be done quickly and correctly. Taking too long to act may lead workers, visitors, and guests that your firm is not responding seriously and can undermine your whole COVID 19 prevention plans.
2. Do it often
Positive feedback is a strong tool for promoting employee engagement and an essential part of managing any crisis.
3. Be specific
Focus your feedback on specific employee actions rather than vague generalities. Accompany comments such as “good job” with a clear description of the actions you are happy with and wish to see repeated. When giving negative feedback, it is even more important to be specific. Keep in mind the purpose is to improve the performance and compliance of your employees, not discourage them.
4. Dispel Myths
Promote information from trusted sources, Local, Federal, Provincial health offices, your workplace medical consultants. Remind employees that Dr. Facebook is not a real doctor and spreading misinformation can be as hazardous to the working environment as actually having an infected person in work. Ontario Public Health has many fact sheets in many languages for your free download, these can be found here Multilingual COVID-19 Factsheets | Public Health Ontario
Updated information from the Public Health Agency of Canada can be found here https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
5. Open but frank discussions
Employees should be made to understand that violating public health guidelines is an issue between them and public health, an employer has no legal standing to discipline employees for violating these guidelines, what an employer does have is the right to discipline an employee who knowingly violates company policy and puts themselves and others at risk.
Make sure your policies reflect an understanding that employees must disclose all potential exposures and then react accordingly.
6. Focus on the person, not the Virus
Each person will have a different reaction to a potential workplace exposure, those with at risk family members or underlying medical conditions may react differently than someone who does not, people may have specific fears that may need more information to allay or involve speaking with a medical professional. Responding quickly, professionally and understanding the persons specific needs or concerns will.
7. Be Current
Information changes regularly regarding the virus, ensure your communication boards, bulletins and program provides the latest information to employees.
8. The medium is the message
Employees are bombarded with information thru social media, news, friends, corporate programs, announcements, policy changes, should be done in person preferably by a member of the management team—rather than by email or through a subordinate.
9. Follow up
Follow up and provide support to help the employee understand the policies and programs that are in place. Involve HR or a JOHSC member if required.
10. Accept feedback
Encourage employees to give you feedback. Then, make sure you act on it, if warranted. This contributes to a healthy and open workplace and will make your program better.