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Since the first COVID-19 lockdown in the Spring, organizations have had to adapt at lightning speed and adjust the way they do business. One of the difficult things about the pandemic is that just when you start to hit your stride, the situation changes. As we get deeper into the second wave, COVID-19 cases continue to rise and restrictions are getting tighter. On November 19th, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) announced new orders that once again change the way employers must operate. Masks are now mandatory in the workplace. So are daily worker health checks. COVID-19 Safety Plans need to be updated, and WorkSafeBC is increasing inspections.

Now that we’ve had time to test the effectiveness of our pandemic response and learn some lessons along the way, what can we do to weather the storm of the second wave and come out stronger?

Reassess policies and procedures

Many new policies and procedures have been implemented this year, including cleaning and hygiene, physical distancing, sick policies, and working from home. Now that these policies have been in practice for a while, it’s a good time to look back and determine what has worked well and what hasn’t. What needs to be changed to maintain compliance and ensure employees continue to be safe? Make sure any changes to polices and procedures are communicated to the team, and consider asking for their input and feedback when making revisions.

Update your plans

New PHO orders require that employers review and update COVID-19 Safety Plans to ensure continued effectiveness. When the province first went into lockdown in the Spring, employers had very little warning and were scrambling to figure out how to adapt and stay open. Now with experience and hindsight, employers can create more informed and robust safety plans, operating procedures, and contingency plans to adapt to changing public health orders and economic impacts.

Keep enough supplies

During the first wave of the pandemic, supply hoarding resulted in the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 and made it nearly impossible to find hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes. While stockpiling all the toilet paper and hand sanitizer you can find isn’t advised, it is important to make sure you have adequate supplies for your workplace. Take inventory of your PPE, cleaning, and hygiene supplies. As an employer, you likely have policies in place regarding disinfecting surfaces, washing and sanitizing hands, and wearing masks, so make sure you have enough supplies for when your employees need them.

Ensure employee supports are in place

Many employees are feeling tired. They’ve been dealing with the ups and downs of the pandemic for almost a year, and in the second wave they’re facing increased stress and anxiety around rising case numbers and heightened lockdowns. Focusing on employee mental health is critical right now, and being proactive will help avoid employee burnout through the Winter. Initiate the conversation on mental health and encourage your team to use the resources and programs available to support employees’ mental health.

As much as we try to plan ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is unpredictable and we can never be sure what tomorrow will bring. Employers have to do what they can to be prepared, and being agile and adaptable will be just as important in leading through this second wave. The next few months could bring more restrictions and lockdowns, increased health scares, and more social isolation. Being adaptable and empathetic during this difficult time will help build resiliency among your team.

Your Engaged HR Assignment:

Review your policies and procedures, COVID-19 Safety Plan, supply inventory, and mental health support programs. Are you prepared to weather the second wave? If you could use a hand reviewing and updating your COVID-19 plans and protocols, we’re here to help!

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