With the arrival of vaccinations for COVID-19, a new set of issues arise as companies contemplate workplace policies.
While the issues may be new, how employers handle this isn’t, according to Gary Pearce, chief risk architect at Aclaimant, a workflow solution for safety and risk management company.
“When you look at any organization there is an existing relationship between the company and the employees with regard to trust," explains Pearce. “And that's the accumulation of a lot of experiences and impressions and attitudes which creates this culture.”
It’s this solid relationship that will determine the success of creating policies to deal with the pandemic and any other issues that will arise. “Having a favorable relationship with one's own workforce is arguably of greater importance than ever before,” says Pearce. “As we evaluate this issue of mandatory vaccinations and the return to work process or how the workforce will change next year, it's not a new situation we're walking into but adapting a new challenge to an existing situation.”
And one of the areas that will need a lot of attention is how companies will be coming back to the office and the associated risks this involves. “While right now we are very dependent on remote work, I think that soon we will return to a more traditional working environment,” says Pearce. “And even in industries where remote work was impossible, there's still going to be an attitudinal, cultural and even a legal shift as we move forward.”
Pearce believes the legal aspect will ramp up once we are past dealing with the day-to-day concerns of the pandemic. He sees an increased willingness on the part of employees to pursue legal remedies. This will arise from higher expectations of safety standards. People will look to their employers, generally a trusted source of information, to protect them. “The issue of safety and ensuring the safety of a workplace will not be something that is nice to have but it will be a must have,” says Pearce. And Pearce warns that if employees feel this is missing they might be willing to pursue remedies which could include regulatory complaints or even take to social media to air grievances.
At the end of the day, says Pearce, the workforce needs to believe that the employer is doing the right things, having balanced the needs of the organization, the safety of the employees, and the expectations of the customers.
“This success of managing the vaccination, and other issues related to COVID-19 will be achieved through an ongoing dialogue based on trust,” says Pearce
Best Practices for Planning
Given all of these issues, Pearce advises companies address employees' concerns through constant communication.
“You don't communicate with just one message,” says Pearce. “It needs to be ongoing. As we look at all these developments on the vaccination front, for example, there's a lot of science involved and not all employees are really up to the task. I think it's going to be common for employees to look to trusted sources for information, and like it or not that employer needs to be a trusted source. If they aren’t, they're going to have an employment relationship issues.”