Workplace Communication Related To Covid-19 - what do you tell your employees as they come back? | Calgary, Alberta

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May 2020 Newsletter
In This Issue
  • Thanks for Joining Us!
  • Government of Alberta Relaunch Strategy
  • Workplace Communication Related To Covid-19
  • Will Remote Working Remain Effective For Your Organization?
  • Quick Reference: Ensuring Your Workplace is Safe
  • Quick Reference: What Will Vacation and Sick Leave Look Like?
  • Quick Reference: Adjustments To The Physical Workplace
  • Coach's Corner: Coronavirus and Employer Responsibilities
May 2020
Volume 7, Number 6
Available in ebook and soft cover at Wendy Ellen Inc.

Available for Kindle on Amazon

Thanks for Joining Us!

Spring has finally sprung, let's get out and enjoy, at a safe distance of course. After weeks of being home bound and endless 'Zoom" meetings, it looks like the doors are opening – what does the workplace look like post-COVID-19?   

We've got some ideas but truth be told we are looking forward to a time when this is all a distant
memory :)


Government of Alberta Relaunch Strategy
Alberta’s relaunch has been announced and it looks like the doors are slowly being opened to reunite your workforce.

To see Alberta's full relaunch plan refer to:

For tips for specific business sectors refer to:

Source: Government of Alberta
Workplace Communication Related To Covid-19 - what do you tell your employees as they come back?
Now more than ever, communication with staff and volunteers is critical. As the province begins to slowly open again, employers are urged to:
  • Encourage staff and volunteers to remain up to date with developments related to COVID-19.
  • Post the newest case number data somewhere for all to see.
  • Remind staff about available social and mental health supports during this stressful time, and encourage them to use these resources.
  • Encourage staff to get outside on their breaks and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine.
  • Notify staff and patrons of the steps being taken by the workplace to prevent the risk of transmission of infection, and the importance of their roles in these measures.
  • Post this information in areas where staff and customers can refer to them.     
  • Prepare for increases in absenteeism due to illness among staff, volunteers and their families.
  • Ensure staff understand their right to job-protected leave for COVID-related issues (illness, childcare, etc.)
  • Ensure staff and patrons are aware that Order 05-2020 requires individuals who have returned from travel outside of Canada to be in isolation for a minimum of 14 days.
  • Encourage and enforce staff to stay at home if they are feeling at all ill.
Encourage staff to talk to you if they are at all concerned.

“Help prevent the spread” posters are available here.
Workplace Guidance for Business Owners,
Government of Alberta
Will Remote Working Remain Effective For Your Organization?
The workplace will look different post COVID. The mindset has shifted – one macro trend from this pandemic will be a workforce that has learned to enjoy working from home.  Some feel more productive and probably are, while others have realized the wasted hours commuting to the office – hours that could instead be spent with children, hobbies, cooking or getting out for a walk. The costs are lower because they don’t have to worry about office attire, $15.00 lunches or transportation costs.

At the moment, the Government of Alberta is encouraging working from home where at all possible. And as restrictions ease, employers will have to be prepared for people wanting to continue working from home. This may work for your business or it may not; but bottom line, it is your choice.  

Right now, you do have to be prepared to offer unpaid leave or accommodate those that need to remain at home for childcare purposes until daycares and schools fully open.  If employees do remain at home, you need to make sure you have a clear Work from Home policy. The policy should address:
  • Schedule: what core hours must be covered, etc.
  • Availability of tools and technology to enable staff to work remotely (reimbursement or tax deduction)
  • Insurance
  • Work Environment
  • Confidentiality
  • Expectations
  • Communication and check-ins between employer and worker
  • Contact with customers, if applicable
  • Clear understanding that working from home is not a substitution for childcare (once schools and day cares are fully operational)

Alberta Occupational Health and Safety provides a detailed bulletin Working From Home During a Pandemic that gives detailed best practices for employers and employees.
Click on the image below for a larger version
Quick Reference: Ensuring Your Workplace Is Safe 
Employers will need to ensure there is enough space to maintain social distancing, ensure all employees have sanitizing wipes for their offices and washroom handles, and ensure there are sanitation guidelines for communal areas such as kitchens and employee lounges. Employers may choose to stagger their workforce as they return to work to allow for less people in communal areas and to maintain the social distance requirements. Consider dividng your staff not two groups - one comes into the office MWF and the others T/TH and then alternate. Since we are social beings, employers will need to put signage in the workplace to remind staff to not get too close when approaching a work station, in the kitchen, employee lounge or when passing by in the foyer or hallways.

The provincial government websites highlight employer obligations for safely having employees in the workplace. The Government of Alberta has produced a comprehensive and detailed Workplace Guidance for Business Owners .

All workplaces are expected to develop and implement these policies and procedures prior to re-opening or continuing operations after May 1, 2020.
Quick Reference: What Will Vacation and Sick Leave Look Like?
For those returning to the physical space, there will be new challenges to face. How are you going to manage everyone wanting to take their vacation that they haven’t been able to take once travel is permitted? Consider holding a vacation lottery for sought after dates or go by seniority. You may need to pay out some vacation to alleviate this concern.

On the flip side, are you going to allow further time off for employees who may have been forced to use their vacation related to illness, childcare or other Covid related issues? You will also need to make sure that you have a clear Sick Leave or Personal Day policy that makes it mandatory and affordable to stay home if feeling sick. Right now, and post COVID, there is no place for the workplace hero who pushes through work while sick.

Temporary Workplace Rules are still in effect in Alberta; employers should refer to these to ensure they are adhering to proper legislation.
Quick Reference: Adjustments to The Physical Workplace
Employers are responsible for mitigating risks once their workplace opens especially as it relates to physical distancing. Consider the following:

* Limit the number of employees and others in the workplace
* Encourage and provide work from home flexibility or even condensed work weeks
* Allow only a minimum of staff to return to the office
* Stagger work at home days or alternating shifts with staff to enable proper social distancing. 

* Implement job-sharing where appropriate and agreeable to employees
* Control access for customers and third parties
Coach's Corner: Coronavirus and Employer Responsibiilties 

Employers are responsible for protecting the health and safety of their employees while at work.

Under Part II of the Canadian Labour Code:

Employers are responsible for protecting the health and safety of employees at work. If there is a risk of exposure to coronavirus for employees while working, employers must:
  • identify
  • assess the risk, and
  • implement proper controls through their Hazard Prevention Program
If the employer requires personal protective equipment, they must provide training and procedures to employees. Employees must comply with the employer's procedures.

Employees have 3 basic rights:
  • the right to know
  • the right to participate, and
  • the right to refuse dangerous work
*Definition of danger: "any hazard, condition or activity that could reasonably be expected to be an imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person exposed to it before the hazard or condition can be corrected or the activity altered."

One of the most important things employers can do is educate workers on the signs and symptoms of coronavirus, and the precautions that can be taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Identify the nearest medical facility that workers can attend if they require medical attention. Accommodate medical conditions to the point of undue hardship by allowing workers time away from work to attend medical appointments, self-isolate if necessary and to recover. Employer policies or procedures may already provide for this.
Creating effective relaunching policies requires professional expertise.

Contact Wendy Ellen Inc. for all your HR needs today!
About Wendy Ellen Inc.
Wendy Ellen Inc. specializes in providing human resource and benefits management skills to small to mid-sized companies on an as-needed basis. From recruitment, Human Resource policy development and legislative compliance, employee retention and engagement, individual advisor/coaching, succession planning to employee development and performance, Wendy Ellen Inc. will help you protect your most valuable resource, your people.
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