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Companies around Detroit, throughout Michigan and across the country are planning and implementing new safety practices, protocols and set-ups to help protect employees as they plan for the re-start of their operations.
They are conducting deep cleaning, reconfiguring production line and office layouts to accommodate responsible social distancing, setting up disinfecting stations and schedules, implementing temperature check protocols, creating emergency response teams, adding new signage and preparing employee training on all the new safety practices.
Companies are frantically preparing their workplaces to enable their upcoming re-opening as safely as possible.
Yet, many workers who desperately want to return to work for economic reasons are torn. They want to get back to work, but they are also very concerned about their own health and safety, because of the tsunami of media coverage about the potential deadly effects of the COVID-19 virus.
According to a recent poll conducted throughout Michigan on behalf of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, only 20% of employees surveyed said they feel very safe returning to work, while 41% said they feel somewhat safe, and 32% said they felt somewhat or very unsafe.
Further, 40% of surveyed employees indicated they either do not trust or are unsure about their work place’s ability to keep them safe. (For poll results report, visit https://www.detroitchamber.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Michigan-April-2020-Covid-19-Survey-Report-Final.pdf)
So how do you reassure employees and restore their trust so they are willing to come to work and to engage fully with the new working conditions?
First, of course, you must do the right things. You must implement the recommended health practices and protocols, provide PPEs and enable social distancing. Saying that employees’ safety is your major concern is not enough. You must show them. You must walk the talk.
And most companies are doing their best to implement the necessary health practices and to follow CDC and industry guidelines.
Second, as perhaps just as important, you must communicate – clearly, honestly and candidly — to these employees.
You need to clearly explain what measures you have implemented, how these measures will help protect them, solicit their help in following all protocols and procedures, and encourage them to help make the workplace as safe as possible.
This is, in some ways, more challenging, for several reasons:
1) You have to overcome the fear of the unknown that all of us face amidst this pandemic, and that requires consistent, frequent and ongoing communication;
2) You have to reach all employees, including those employees who are on furlough that you either can’t reach or you are legally prohibited from communicating directly with them while on furlough; and
3) You have to mitigate the potential corrosive effects of negative rumors that will likely be circulated by some disgruntled employees who may have their own agendas that do not involve worker health or safety.
• Start communicating about the health and safety measures your company is taking now, before the re-open, and frequently and consistently continue it into and beyond the re-opening process.
• Show your concern about, and commitment to, the health and safety of employees and include messages that underscore the steps the company is taking in your CEO’s weekly communication with employees.
• Acknowledge the people who are going above and beyond their normal duties to enable a safe return to work.
• Develop and activate social media posts (via your established Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and other channels) with photos or video showing the employees that are already at work who are implementing the new safety protocols.
• Create a special “re-open” page on your website that reinforces your safety messaging so that employees, their families, suppliers and other interested parties can see the actions you are taking to provide a safe environment.
• Provide a mechanism for input (a special email address, suggestion box, Twitter account, etc.) and encourage employees to use these mechanisms to provide feedback and input on the measures that you have implemented, to encourage suggestions for additional improvements.
• Respond to employee suggestions and input quickly so employees know they are being heard and taken seriously.
If you would like a free consultation with us around your re-start communications, email Jim Bianchi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you’d like to see other COVID-19 related communications resources, visit the PRGN COVID19 Resource Center.