Occupational health and safety (OSH) has always been a shared responsibility of employers and facilities managers. However, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of health and safety at the workplace in a clearer and stark manner. Eventually, the COVID-19 crisis has led to OSH becoming a critical aspect of business growth discussions in organizations, which had never happened before. Summing up the ordeal of 1.5 years, it can be said that COVID-19 adversely affected not only the sales volumes or cash flows, but also weakened the ability of businesses to serve clients. A FICCI Survey confirmed, “A large proportion of the participating companies emphasised the problem in availing credit and called upon the banking community to further enhance lending at a reasonable rate.”
Given the fact that almost every organisation registered a dip in their overall performance efficiency since the break out of the pandemic, it is high time businesses considered health and safety a socio-economic responsibility. In fact, prioritizing health presents an economic opportunity of roughly $12 trillion in 2040, according to McKinsey Global Institute research.
No more a benefit but an investment:
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has set standards for employee health and safety at the workplace, making it a major objective of the companies. From statutory compliance or discretionary benefit to becoming a part and parcel of organisational resilience, health should now be seen as an investment that can help businesses to speed up their economic recovery through increased ROI. Improper physical health and mental well-being can lead to financial & reputation losses in form of high staff turnover, unproductivity, and absenteeism, etc., especially amidst the pandemic. On the contrary, healthier and happier employees build a strong, resilient workforce that delivers customer excellence.
Employers can invest in the health and well-being of employees by providing employees with additional medical insurance cover, covering their costs of vaccines, creating an organisational COVID-19 task force, offering mental health support through one-on-one sessions with managers/counsellors. Businesses cannot navigate the present crisis unless they treat employee health as an investment.
Evolving as a tangible skill:
The onus of ensuring inclusive health and well-being of employees lies on four pillars of an organisation —management, HR, admin, and facilities managers. It requires leaders from all four departments to work responsibly, and collaboratively. Where the management should place health at the center of the corporate policy, HRs should make sure that the employees are benefitted from the policy. On the other hand, admins and facilities managers should work in tandem for preventive facilities maintenance, thereby ensuring the safety of the post-covid workplace. The social distancing norms, staggered shifts, crowd management, health screening, and cleaning and disinfection regimes are a way forward.
Also, there exists the need for innovation to fight diseases like COVID-19 that lacks sustainable cures and treatments. To control the environmental, behavioural, and medical aspects in a workplace, the organisation need technological interventions such as thermal imaging, motion detection sensors, contactless visitor management systems, etc., for a touch less, safer, and healthier workplace.
Amongst many, bolstering the health and safety of employees is a tangible skill that key stakeholders can cultivate to deliver measurable outcomes for the organisation as a whole.
Communication is the key:
The companies wanting to create a safe workplace and resilient workforce must also focus on the communication strategies at present and with so much uncertainty looming, employees need to absorb simple and clear information. Clear communication and outreach in regard to health and wellness initiatives taken by the employer foster trust amongst the employees. One such example where effective communication helped mobilising employees is the vaccination hesitancy. Ever since the vaccine drive commenced in India, the companies are seen working on increasing vaccine awareness amongst their people, encouraging them to get vaccinated. The communication directors should continue to customise their messaging from health benefits to business recovery as the employees will stand with companies that are committed and equally visible to supporting their health and well-being.