As workers begin to return to the office, tensions are rising between employees who are fearful of putting themselves at further risk of catching COVID-19 and employers who want things to get back to normal after a rough three months.
“I work in the iGaming industry, and while many employees continue to work remotely, we’re being ordered to all return to work this week without the option of working from home,” one employee told Lovin Malta.
“We don’t feel comfortable or safe to return to the office. When working in a sector which fully allows for remote working, should employees be asked to return while the current situation is still unstable?” she asked.
And it’s not just her – many employees are now having to balance their personal fears with their careers and finances. And feeling like your company isn’t listening to your concerns can be frustrating.
But it’s just as frustrating for employers who are trying to begin pulling their businesses out of the economic downturn brought about by the pandemic, especially in light of the government’s orders for people, including the vulnerable, to begin returning to work.
“The best way for employers to mitigate risks is by making sure that the workplace is as safe as possible,” Mark Galea, the managing director at Quad Consultancy, told Lovin Malta.
“They need to take all the necessary steps to provide a safe working environment and to educate their employees about their obligations to keep everyone safe.”
Different working environments will provide different challenges for employers to make their employees feel safe enough to return after months of preventative measures and naturally avoiding getting too close to people. Employers need to put the minds of the most worried in their companies at rest.
“The truth is that there are no healthy employees without a healthy business, no healthy business without healthy employees, and no healthy business without any healthy customers,” Galea said.
Companies would do well to do their utmost to ensure their places are in tip-top hygienic shape.
“At the end of the day, if an employee is infected, the whole workplace is shut down. Not only is it risky for all employees and the people they share a home with, but also for customers and ultimately the company’s very existence,” he said.
However, some companies have taken some tough measures to try and get their workers back to the office.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen employers actually threaten employees with redundancies if they don’t go back to work. Regrettably, some employers were outright forceful while others made an attempt to engage in some form of conversation with their employees albeit keeping the same underlying message: come back to work or you won’t have any work to go back to,” he said.
“On the other extreme, there are a number of companies who are telling their employees to keep working from home and that this is likely to last until a successful vaccine is developed.”
Indeed, it’s essential that companies are aware of their employees’ thoughts at this sensitive time.
“Again, every individual would have his own fears, issues, realities and agendas. Some people may share a home with a vulnerable person. Others may be afraid of third parties who may not be as careful as they themselves are,” Galea ended.
Until a vaccine is developed, Galea urges open discussion between employers and employees.
“This is no Marxist conflict or Hegelian dialectic between two opposing camps. This is a joint collaboration – a team effort – amongst everyone in the organisation working towards the good of the company, its employees, its customers and the stakeholders,” he said.
“Where employees are concerned, they should keep an open dialogue and information flow to seek to understand employee issues and make sure that, in turn, employees understand the realities of the organisation,” he ended.