How to protect employees returning to the office?

HRD speaks to Lenovo Singapore on how to manage health and safety amidst the pandemic

How to protect employees returning to the office?

More than ever before, employees are now prioritising workplace health and safety amidst the ongoing pandemic. This especially rings true for those making their way back to the office.

Employees answered resoundingly that it’s HR and leadership’s responsibility to keep workplaces safe and conducive for them to work in. Enforcing safety will also keep everyone’s worries at bay, as we await access to a COVID-19 vaccine.

Read more: Rushing back to the office? Maybe it’s time to slow down

Majority are still keen on seeing flexibility become a permanent part of HR policy, according to a recent study. Beyond that, a top priority for employees is to see leaders place heightened focus on hygiene practices and overall health and well-being.

In the Qualtrics study, three in four employees even said it’s ‘really important’ that their employer asks them what measures they want to see in place, before they can feel confident enough to return.

The study found that workers are keen on seeing several actions from employers such as:

  • More flexible work schedules (69%)
  • Higher focus on personal hygiene (44%)
  • Greater focus on employee mental health (39%)
  • And focus on office hygiene (39%)
  • Ability to choose their work location (38%)

As employers figure out the best return-to-work strategy for their organisations, we spoke with Loh Siew Kim, HR partner at Lenovo Singapore to get insights into managing employee health and safety amidst the pandemic.

Read more: How to return to the office safely

HRD: How can HR ensure that employees at all levels feel protected as they get back to work?
SK: A big challenge that organisations will face is showing their employees that their workplace is “COVID-19 secure”. Organisations need to develop a health and safety guideline for their return-to-office plans.

While HR works on building the guideline, all employees must be involved in policing it and providing feedback to constantly update and create a safer work environment.

Taking into consideration employees’ concerns and feedback will also help them feel heard and more confident returning to work.

While being concerned about safety and health of employees, their mental well-being is just as important, as adjusting to new work norms could be emotionally and mentally challenging for some.

At Lenovo, HR has set guidelines in place for all employees and contractors to follow and report, if any, health, or safety concerns to the Lenovo management, who will then take prompt corrective actions.

HR is also responsible in ensuring that the employees’ well-being is taken care of, and that they remain happy and satisfied as a Lenovo employee.

With the perfect mix of policies, employees will be able to cope with the new changes and at the same time stay productive and satisfied with their job.

As this situation is unfolding, Lenovo will continue assuring employees that safety measures are put in place for their safe return to the workplace, should they choose to.

From regular site disinfection, temperature-taking, safe distancing and contact tracing, Lenovo has taken and will continue measures as we put the health and safety of our employees as our main priority.

Read more: Back to work: Govt requirements to reopen safely

HRD: What are some practical steps leaders can take to protect employees upon their return?
SK: As employees prepare to return to work, technology will play a key role in enabling organisations to create a safe working environment and maintaining work processes, allowing communication between employees, while enhancing workplace health and safety.

This is especially important as organisations start to implement hybrid work arrangements to integrate their employees back to working in the office.

One way in which organisations can maintain its employee experience is through its human capital management tools used to promote wellness and productivity. These platforms have been critical to businesses so far and will continue doing so to support the workforces’ flexible working arrangements.

Organisations should also have health and safety solutions in place to assist employees as they safety return to work.

Organisations can deploy technologies that enables employee health screening, track-and-trace capabilities, social-distancing enforcement, among many others. This will allow employees to return to the office in a safe manner.

Reinforcing the message on good hygiene practice and social responsibility to reduce the risk of infection and maintain wellness and health for better immunity against the virus.

As for Lenovo, the company continues to encourage everyone to work from home and only to be at the office to perform work if necessary.

Read more: COVID-19: Can you refuse to return to work?

HRD: Who should be in-charge of enforcing health & safety at work amidst the pandemic?
SK: At Lenovo, we believe that everyone, including managers and employees, as well as any contractors performing work on behalf of Lenovo, is personally responsible for following the health and safety guidelines listed.

We all play an individual role in maintaining our personal health as well as creating a clean and safe workplace for our colleagues. The company has a SG Site Committee who looks after the SG site and employees.

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