The United States has started trickling back to life, county by county, state by state. Many businesses continue to operate full-remotely, so before your business rushes to reinstate what was considered normal three months ago, it’s time to put a plan in place to ensure the safety of your employees. 

Your safety plan may be very different from the next business owner, so try to look at each aspect of your company to see what you can do to keep your employees working efficiently while keeping their health (both mental and physical) in mind.

 

Create an appropriate paid sick leave policy with defined requirements 

 

When employees come to work sick, they risk everyone else’s health as well. From a business perspective, making sure your employees are healthy is financially smart. According to an NPR poll, “A majority of working adults say they still go to work when they are sick.“ When this occurs, it risks everyone else becoming sick as well. 

It is likely that following COVID-19, people will be less likely to come to work or school sick, for a short period. But, as we all know, we humans forget the back and normalize things quickly. Requiring your employees to stay home under certain conditions, (such as fever or vomiting) will likely improve the entire health of the staff.  Rather than suggestions, create requirements so that staff will stay home when they really are sick. If possible, you may suggest allowing work-from-home when the employee is sick. 

 

While a business loses money when one employee takes sick time, it is magnified when that sick employee comes to work, and causes everyone around them to also become ill 

Retention is also closely associated with sick leave policies, so if you want to keep your best employees, ensure you offer a well-rounded sick leave policy.  Mold your company culture around encouraging sick people to stay home, not commending them for “working through it,” which supports presenteeism and in turn creates a toxic environment in which sick workers are applauded. 

 

Expand your first aid kit 

 

Your first aid kit at your company likely looks a little like the medicine cabinet at your house: some bandaids, an expired bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a few chewable individually wrapped tums. 

It’s time to really consider if those pieces are enough. Consider purchasing appropriate items that should an emergency arise again, you are well covered. If you are requiring your employees to return back to work while using PPE like gloves and masks, reduce that cost on the employee by providing masks to them. You can purchase wholesale face masks for significantly less than your employees can buy one or two at a time. This is also true for bulk purchases like hand sanitizer, gloves, and other self-protection necessities. 

Some businesses are forced to return to work as we knew it several months ago, or risk being swallowed by the competition. When that is the truth, invest in your employees by providing PPE, even if you are not requiring them to wear it. 

 

Mental health improvements

 

The longer that people operate under quarantine conditions, the more they adapt to it. However, there is significant evidence that COVID-19 may have some lasting mental health effects on the general population. 

To support your employees, put in a few steps to help reduce anxiety about coming back to work. This may mean offering additional reasonable support to moving their desks slightly further away, or it could be offering memberships to a local gym that they can utilize during their work hours. Regular exercise is closely associated with improved mental health states, so simply suggesting a walking loop to your employees may provide them the right tools to address symptoms of stress. 

Evidence suggests that investing in mental health for your employee is good for business as it cuts down on absenteeism and mental costs, and improves productivity and company morale.  

You can use online calculators to see how much various mental health issues could be costing your business. If you need further resources on how to better help employees experiencing mental health issues, start by opening up discussion in the workplace. Contact the insurance provider that you use, and ask what online and in-person mental health options they provide and have them posted for your employees to take advantage of. 

 

The bottom line

Ultimately your business is only as good as the people working there. Implementing a safety plan will improve productivity, efficiency, and company morale, which will in turn create a better business long-term.