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COVID-19 Concerns in the Workplace

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Workplace safety is a pretty hot topic in 2020. While our country continues to deal the COVID-19 pandemic, and we start to see many states start to peak again both in cases and hospital admissions, employers and businesses are working hard to navigate this new normal while trying to stay open, stay afloat in too many cases and be profitable.

A new global study shows 35% of employees and business leaders wish their offices had closed faster and safety measures for essential workers had been implemented sooner. This same survey, conducted by The Workforce Institute, showed only 20% of the workforce felt their organization met their needs during the initial months of the pandemic, but that 33% of employees globally say they trust their employer more now than before the pandemic began because of how their organizations responded. Moving forward into the last quarter of 2020 and into 2021, employers are encouraged to keep their employees’ needs and concerns in the forefront.

Surprisingly, when we think of the number one concern in the workplace during the pandemic, it isn’t having a clean and healthy workplace – it’s job security, flexibility and work-life harmony. Many are concerned about future layoffs or furloughs due to the uncertainty created by COVID-19. Many who are working say they are working either the same or more hours regularly since the start of the pandemic, and there is a concern among employees and employers of fatigue and burnout. Taking some measures to guard against burnout will go a long way with your employees.

Almost half of the surveyed employees felt quick notification of confirmed workplace cases was a top concern. Another surprise is the younger generations (Generation Z and younger Millennials) are most concerned about this. Quick notification and contact tracing can help put minds at ease.

Even though job security and quick notification of confirmed cases were the top priorities, workplace cleanliness came in a close third. Keeping in mind the workplace layout – is there the opportunity to socially distance? What safety measures have been put in place and enforced – mask wearing, hand sanitizing stations, scheduled deep cleanings, limited shared common areas and workplaces, including kitchens, bathrooms, and conference rooms?

Employees are looking for more frequent and transparent communication from their leaders during this time. The good news is that among the 33% of the employees who trust their organizations more now than before the pandemic, 70% say the company went above and beyond in their COVID-19 response. The bad news is there are many employees who are not as trusting right now. It’s time to build that trust, and putting the employee first and getting back to the basic needs every employee requires (physical safety, job stability, and flexibility) are steps to help engage your workforce and help your business succeed during these challenging times.

Mr. Griffith has a received his bachelors degree in Environmental Health from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and president of Workplace Safety & Health Company. He has over 35 years of industrial hygiene, safety, loss control and consulting experience. Chemical monitoring, noise measurement, program development and management, risk assessment and computer management of health and safety data are areas of particular strength. Mr. Griffith is a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) at the local and national level. He is also active in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

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