Is Your Workforce Ready for the New Normal?

DMEC StaffAnnual Conference

Is Your Workforce Ready for the New Normal?

By Bryon Bass, CLMS

SVP, Workforce Absence
Sedgwick

By Andrea Buhl, MSN, RN, FNP-BC

Managing Director, Clinical Operations
Sedgwick

As businesses prepare to reopen their doors and return employees to the workplace over the coming months, many questions arise as to what the new normal will look like and how to best reach this moving destination. Regulations and guidelines continue to evolve in response to the ebb and flow of COVID-19 cases around the country, and employers must be agile in their response. Some of the key areas employers must consider are: how to stay abreast of jurisdictional requirements and mandates; how to bring employees back to the workplace safely and responsibly; and how to anticipate and address employee needs during this time.

Jurisdictional Requirements and Updates
At the onset of COVID-19, employers were faced with a tsunami of information related to jurisdictional mandates, updates, and changes. Modifications were issued continuously in response to the swell of coronavirus cases, and no two jurisdictions looked alike or adopted the same compliance measures. As emergency FMLA and other jurisdictional measures were introduced, employers worked furiously to modify claim procedures that would meet compliance requirements and address employee needs, which was especially challenging since the number of claims, for some, was overwhelming.

While the stream of updates has slowed in some instances, the volume of information to manage remains extremely high. Many organizations have now identified credible resources they turn to for information on changes. Today, employers appear to be focused on longer term policies that are sustainable versus the initial reactive measures that came early in the year. While identifiable trends are still evasive, it seems some organizations are adopting policies that reflect the vision of top leadership. These measures tend to mirror an organization’s culture and how the business treats employees and manages workforce issues overall.

Bringing Employees Back Safely and Responsibly
Heading into the second half of the year, business are faced with bringing employees back to work in a safe and responsible way. It is important to ensure that employees returning to the workplace have not been exposed to, or show symptoms of, COVID-19. Incorporating health questionnaires and temperature checks in accordance with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines can aid a safe return and help ensure employees remain on the job. Similarly, people who were previously physically active may have experienced a period of inactivity, resulting in deconditioning. Rapidly changing from a sedentary environment to a physically demanding job can lead to increased risk for injury. A good fit-for-work program that includes education on proper body mechanics is always an important part of a safety program, but is even more critical now to help minimize the risk of injury.

Anticipating and Addressing Employee Needs
Employers must also be aware of the mental and emotional challenges that can accompany reopening and return to work, including employees who might experience feelings of fear and anxiety. Employers can help ease these concerns by explaining the protective measures put in place to protect employees from the transmission of COVID-19 as well as actions they can take to protect themselves and their co-workers. Providing access to mental health professionals and resources such as through your organization’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is especially important during this time. Employers should also increase awareness around the telemedicine options that are available and how they can be used to offer added support.

Operating a business is challenging, even under the best circumstances, and COVID-19 has redefined all rules for employers. Remaining informed, prioritizing safety, and utilizing all available resources can ensure the employer adaptability needed to protect and care for employees and ultimately, succeed in today’s environment. Join us for our session, Is Your Workforce Ready for the New Normal?, on Aug. 26, at the 2020 DMEC Virtual Annual Conference to learn more.