According to CNBC, the highly infectious Delta variant is causing Covid infections to soar in all fifty states of the US, especially among the unvaccinated populace. Amidst concerns over the ongoing outbreaks, there are fewer plans for businesses to reopen their offices, with most of them emphasising the need for employees to get vaccinated instead of mandating it.
Given the challenges posed by the delta variant, it is natural to feel uncertain about the appropriate response. As the return-to-work plans have been disrupted and the healthcare system is facing immense pressure, it’s difficult to offer a definitive course of action. Each company must consider the well-being of its staff and clients, in addition to evaluating the accessibility of vendors, before deciding on the way ahead.
Please find below supplementary details for your deliberation. While the information may not provide conclusive solutions, our intention is to give you ideas and stimulate further reflection, aiding you in making decisions for your company, both now and in the future.
Delayed Return-to-Work Plans
Forbes has recently reported that several major corporations are in the midst of finalising their reopening plans, but they are also open to reassessing their strategies if necessary. Others have decided to defer their reopening plans or adopt hybrid models, enabling employees to work from home if, for instance, school closures require them to stay home to care for their kids.
Studies conducted in 2023 have proven that remote workers are remarkably efficient when working from home, prompting firms to consider adopting a hybrid work model. As Forbes has noted, “Employers are increasingly gravitating towards a hybrid arrangement, with workers spending two to three days at the office and the remainder remotely.”
Possible Decrease in Business Volume
Market investigations suggest that there has been a decline in consumer spending, with a meager 0.3% increase in spending, compared to the 1% gain witnessed the previous month. If you opt to reopen, you might discover that fewer customers are eager to spend money.
In the event that the work-from-home trend of 2023 returns, it could have a ripple effect on certain types of companies. For example, restaurants serving office workers during lunchtime may lose business if local offices remain shut. Moreover, businesses with packed indoor spaces like nightclubs, theatres, and stores, may suffer negative consequences if customers choose to steer clear of these environments.
Mandating Vaccination: A Worthwhile Pursuit?
To achieve a state of normality that is as close to pre-COVID as feasible, it is essential to mandate vaccinations. For added safety, customers, suppliers and visitors may be requested to show evidence of vaccination. While vaccination mandates are a sound notion in theory, their implementation can be challenging. While there is extensive medical backing for immunisation, some individuals may decide against receiving the vaccine.
Several companies are now choosing to encourage their staff to get vaccinated, rather than mandating it by law. Some are even providing incentives, such as additional vacation time or cash rewards, to those who get immunised. For those deterred by the hassle of scheduling appointments and receiving the shot, some firms are bringing the vaccination clinic to them. As CBIZ, a financial services provider, has pointed out, “Businesses must remain inventive, flexible and resilient in their workplace strategies and approaches to ensure the safety of their employees and customers.”
Logistical Considerations to Ponder
Given the numerous factors that require attention, choices like whether to mandate vaccinations and whether to return to work may seem trivial. Here are just a few instances:
Testing.Are there any established plans for utilising this critical resource? Should I anticipate mandatory routine screenings? Or would it be limited to only those who have not received the vaccine who are at risk?
Mask Wearing.Is the plan for everyone to wear masks indefinitely, regardless of their vaccination status? If an employee or customer refuses to abide by the mask wearing policy, what actions will be taken?
Minimising Interaction.Are there any preparations to establish protocols to guarantee appropriate physical distancing is observed? Would it be necessary to go so far as to modify employee schedules or introduce technological solutions to restrict the number of individuals present in any given area simultaneously?
Alterations to Current Infrastructure.Do you have plans to heighten workplace sanitation, such as enhancing ventilation or installing hand sanitiser dispensers, if you haven’t implemented such measures already?
Adjustments or Closures in the Workplace.What measures, if any, are being contemplated with respect to downsizing office space, relocating offices, or completely discontinuing any offices if you decide to adopt remote work practices permanently?
Constraints on Movement of People or Goods.We should contemplate granting employees time off for external meetings. Are there any necessary limitations that should be imposed? Alternatively, we could explore virtual meetings as an alternative. What sort of advanced technology would be essential for these meetings to be productive if we choose to pursue this option?
Safety Precautions.In light of the persistent occurrence of COVID-19-related scams, what steps will you take to revise your cyber defence strategy? What procedures will be implemented to ensure that your employees are suitably trained and remain vigilant when it comes to safety measures?
The Significance of Mental Well-being
In the upcoming months, it is especially vital to address the mental well-being requirements of personnel, as emphasised in a recent publication in the Harvard Business Review. The article points out that incidents of depression, anxiety, and drug overdoses have all surged since the start of the pandemic. These episodes can be attributed to numerous factors, such as grief from losing loved ones and the elevated levels of stress brought about by job insecurity and unpredictable child care arrangements.
Carry on expanding on your accomplishments from 2022, and guarantee that you consistently meet the needs of those you assist. Moreover, now presents an excellent opportunity to solicit feedback from your team to assess what additional steps could augment the overall emotional wellness of the group.
Sharing Information is Essential
To remain abreast of developments, it is critical to keep your staff informed. Consistent updates via an intranet or another communication platform, such as a weekly or daily newsletter, can assist in ensuring that everyone is in sync. As we approach 2023, it is imperative that you and your team are equipped to respond to any sudden shifts in direction.
Relevant Article: 5 Methods for Promoting Mental Health in the Workplace