Managers and organisations’ health and safety legal and moral responsibilities towards employees do not end just because they are working from home, say QUT organisational psychologists Dr Xiaowen Hu from QUT Business School and Dr Tristan Casey from Griffith University.
- Economic pressures must not prevent focus on workers working from home or those on the frontline
- Organisations will be judged by employees on their commitment to workers’ welfare
- Managers must support workers’ physical and mental wellbeing
- Businesses which take care of employees will be in better recovery position after pandemic
Practical support of all employees during the COVID-19 pandemic enhances organisational resilience and return to normality as well as fulfills obligations to workforce welfare, they say.
“The COVID-19 world we are all negotiating presents businesses with challenges to maintaining adequate levels of psychological and physical health and setting the groundwork for recovery,” Dr Hu said.
“What organisations do now to prioritise and demonstrate commitment to their employees’ safety, if done well, could build resilience and support recovery and re-emergence when the crisis abates."
The two safety researchers said management strategies during the unprecedented changes to daily life and work brought by the pandemic included:
• being vigilant to the organisation’s handling of the crisis relative to others – both competitors and workplaces outside their immediate industry. Employees not only see your responses, but also hear stories from all around the world—including competitors’.
• staying tuned to other organisations’ safety responses and working collaboratively within the organisation to provide a united and equivalent response
• being aware the current crisis is likely to induce a ‘prevention focus’ or a concentration on compliance and risk-aversion when fundamental needs for safety and security are threatened
• offering support to reduce anxiety and enable a smooth transition to COVID safety measures, whether they are social distancing at the frontline, or work from home.
• being aware and accommodating that working remotely can be stressful and difficult in a household with children home from school and vulnerable family members.
• supervisors must be conversant with the organisations’ COVID-19 responses and demonstrate priority on safety.
“Given enormous economic pressure, it is easy for business and managers to focus on the business and operation," Dr Casey said.
“While struggling to stay afloat they might deprioritise safety and employee wellbeing, but this is exactly when organisations must demonstrate commitment to their employees’ welfare because management of worker safety affects other business outcomes.
“Research has shown that when an organisation is perceived as unsupportive of safety and wellbeing, productivity, turnover, job satisfaction and engagement can all fall, to name just a few.”
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