The Premier of Ontario recently announced a 3-phased plan to support the gradual reopening of the province.
As we await confirmation of dates, non-essential workplaces look forward to re-opening and not-for-profit organizations need to be prepared to deal with the new-normal thrust upon us by COVID-19.
Since mid-March, most non-essential workers have been away from the workplace; likely either on lay-off, or on work from home schedules.
Now is the time for not-for-profit organizations to create a plan to prepare to reopen and return employees to the workplace.
While employees may be happy to get back to work, they may also be dealing with their own anxieties about returning to the physical workplace: Will I be safe at work? What if I get sick at work? How can I safely commute (think “public transit users”) to work?
As part of your plan to reopen, take that policy binder off the shelf and review some key policies to ensure you are set for a successful reopening.
Health and Safety Policy
In Canada, all employers have a legal obligation to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect employee health and safety. As you prepare to reopen, screen all returning employees against the Public Health guidelines relating to exposure to COVID-19.
Reviewing your Health and Safety Policy will be an important first step to take. What new measures will you take to ensure a healthy workplace and instill confidence in your workers that it is safe to return to work? Consider assessing your current workplace cleaning protocols to ensure regular cleaning and disinfecting of workspaces and surfaces. Will you provide hand sanitizer in the workplace? Will you supply masks for your employees? Does your current environment provide for appropriate social distancing measures, or can it be better laid out?
Be prepared to comply with any Health & Safety and Public Health guidelines in effect at the time of reopening.
Sick Leave Policy
Another policy that should be up for review right now is Sick Leave. Our Chief Medical Officers of Health remind us daily of the importance of staying home when sick, but does your policy support that behaviour? Does your policy address COVID-19- related illness and self-isolation requirements?
COVID-19 will remain a threat in our environment for the foreseeable future. It would be prudent to develop a procedure that defines the steps that are to be taken if an employee tests positive for COVID-19, has come in contact with COVID-19, or has COVID-19 symptoms.
Work from Home Policy
Your organization may have already had a work-from-home policy in place, or you may be an organization for which work-from-home has been new territory. I am hopeful that organizations have had positive experiences with work-from-home during the past 8 weeks. The flexibility to work-from-home benefits both employers and employees in countless ways. There are many studies that report an increase in productivity during work-from-home. Work-from-home is here to stay, so think about how to leverage this to support your business objectives and meet your employees’ need for flexibility.
Technology plays a vital role in the success of work-from-home programs. What technology and technology platforms will you and your employees require for effective, productive work-from-home? What will be your video conference standards and expectations? Think about other tools to enable remote access to documents, etc.
Communicate with your employees about what’s changed (leaves, policy changes, new safety guidelines, etc.) and what they can expect when they return to physical workplaces.
Ontario is going back to work soon, but it won’t be the familiar old ways-of-working that we’re used to. This is the time to prepare for a successful transition to our “new-normal”.
MAS consultants can help as you continue to evolve your HR plans, policies and processes.
Would you like to know more about MAS? Access:
City of Toronto
Toronto Public Health
Ministry of Labour Guidance
Workplace Safety and Services
About Jo Anne Langshaw
Jo Anne has recently joined MAS as a volunteer consultant. After a career as an HR leader in the pharma and biotech sectors, she continues to work part-time as an HR Consultant with small organizations in the private and not-for-profit areas.