Enhancing Employee Safety in the Modern Hybrid Era

May 05, 2022
Oracle | 8 min READ
Employees are more productive when they feel safe at work. “A 2017 Gallup report found that if organisations increase psychological safety, it makes employees more engaged in their work and can lead to a 12% increase in productivity” [cnbc.com]
Vipin Bansal
Vipin Bansal

Associate Vice President


Consequently, it is unsurprising that the first step of any successful strategy is to enhance employee safety. In the age of Coronavirus, we have become acutely aware of the need to protect employees from illness and have comprehensive safety plans in place. Employees are human beings first and foremost, and as humans, we have an inherent need for security. This security can be psychological or physical, but it must exist for employees to do their best work.
To create psychological security, each employee must feel part of something, which encourages them to stay loyal and motivated. As a result, companies need to develop open lines of communication with their employees to “create the right climate, mindsets, and behaviors within their teams” [mckinsey.com]. Additionally, many companies offer training opportunities both on and off the job. These opportunities boost a sense of belonging for each employee.
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Physical security is also a factor in maintaining a safe workplace. A company should have several safety protocols in place, first and foremost being an identified chain of command. If a safety hazard is specified, the system should immediately notify the highest-ranking employee contact. This process ensures that all employees are working safely and that no accidents go unnoticed. Alerting those in the relevant departments to safety threats also plays a big part in preventing the spread of the Coronavirus. Regular employee testing within departments allowed management to identify risks and enabled them to pinpoint and trace those to whom the virus may have extended. In addition to this, each employee must have their set of safety equipment to guarantee that they can protect themselves from harm at any given time.
The changing landscape of the modern workplace and its impact on employee safety
Working is no longer just about arriving at a place with designated hours to complete tasks. For example, a study conducted by CPS Advisory Council found that “the number of deaths occurring outside the physical confines of people’s worksites has more than doubled since 2000, representing an increasing share of all occupational fatalities”. This statistic alone emphasises how important it is to identify unsafe behaviour in these non-traditional settings so a company can adequately educate employees on their surroundings.
Employees are less likely to engage in safety behaviours if they don’t understand the risks of their surroundings or how their work practices can impact Safety. “Education is a vital part of employee safety…Safety and risk education should be a mandatory part of onboarding when you join a company,” comments Birlasoft’s Sougat Chakravartty. However, according to “Canada’s Report on the Prevention of Falls at Workplaces” (published for the first time in January 2014), more than 25% of workers reported not receiving information on precautions to prevent falls before commencing their job. These findings highlight one of the significant challenges for workplace safety: educating employees about the risks they face and how to mitigate them.
Management and HR leaders must take the initiative and provide their employees with the necessary guidance. In addition, companies could consider using supplementary solutions such as an HCM system to relieve some of this responsibility’s pressure.
“An HCM system entails various different offerings such as digital assistant features, workplaces safety and incident registers, along with educational resources. These functions help to aid both employers and employees in preventing and managing safety issues proactively.” [Sougat Chakravartty, Birlasoft]
How to enhance employee safety in a hybrid era workplace
The nature of work is changing. The explosion in the number of smartphone users and an increase in remote workers have brought a new sense of freedom to employees used to working at fixed locations. Over the last two years, we have seen vast adjustments made due to the nature of the pandemic, and subsequently, hybrid working has risen, along with the trend of “uberisation”. This effect functions out of the confines of traditional organisations. The result is great flexibility, but it also complicates issues such as job security [forbes.com]. In addition to increased flexibility, our fast-paced modern world has created a hybrid era workplace where traditional office spaces blur by co-working environments, hotel lobbies or collaborative retail locations like Starbucks coffee houses.
Workplaces should aim to create a safe working environment by limiting the potential hazards present in the workplace. In a report, OSHA found that the number and severity of MSDs result from physical overexertion [OSHA.gov]. Companies should build upon safety measures implemented before this modern age phenomenon to mitigate some of these issues. As such, management should inform employees about how they can proactively enforce their Safety when working remotely or at co-working facilities. A good starting point would be to bring it up with senior management in meetings or organisations related to Safety.
Designing work for better well-being: Work-life balance and the emotional connect
It is also essential to consider the mental aspect of overexertion. Burnout can negatively affect employee satisfaction and productivity levels. Solutions that encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance can prevent these issues. Some useful functions are absence management trackers that help employers see which staff members have outstanding holidays, where productivity and attendance have fluctuated, etc. Another valuable offering is that of company-sponsored initiatives. These initiatives could range from volunteer programs to team building days. “I think it’s important for companies to offer a mixture of external and internal volunteer programs to help broaden employee’s personal development…, particularly in light of the work-related stress associated with the pandemic.”
Whether employees are working in the exact location or remotely, the latest technology can be a valuable tool to protect employees. For example, new technologies create a virtual boundary to feel safe when working alone. An excellent example of one such system is an HCM solution. This type of solution allows employees to feel connected and management and access essential resources.
When is the best time to implement new safety measures in your organisation?
When it comes to Safety, many organisations operate reactively instead of proactively. The management of a business has a responsibility to ensure that it does all in its power to keep employees safe and healthy. This determination should begin from the first day they join the company and continue their tenure with you. If an unsafe working practice or hazardous condition becomes apparent, managers should have several options for dealing with the arising situations and actively develop that list.
There are external solutions available to act as an end to end safety system.
Why it’s essential to have a comprehensive safety system in place
Many ask what is yet to come this year from governments, scientists and media outlets. With the current economic situation and rising fuel prices, companies must pull out all stops and find new ways to keep employees safe at work. As a result, they need an effective safety system. Companies with comprehensive plans will improve their bottom line and gain ground on their competitors by sending clear signals that they are forward-thinking and putting the Safety of employees first.
A blog by trucesoftware.com states, “Safety can be a competitive advantage for any company. It can bolster your company’s reputation, create valuable operating margin, even help you recruit and retain top talent."
For companies to have these systems in place, they must first implement a program with standard operating procedures, training programs and ongoing evaluations of those potential hazards within the workplace. This process also includes having regular meetings and records to ensure that employees and managers constantly communicate. Each organisation needs a channel of communication to facilitate their employee’s voice and document it. Opening up discussions and having the right resources is essential- particularly in the current climate. To emphasise this, a study created by CIPD stated that “17% of respondents mentioned trade unions as a channel for voice. The most common channel was one-to-one meetings with a line manager. This reflects a general shift away from the indirect and representative voice, and towards direct and individual channels.” Employee safety and the work-life balance need to be a collective effort from both managers and employees. Commenting on this statistic, Birlasoft expert Sougat Chakravartty states: “Having designated leaders and managers in every department, who are trained to use HCM controls and carry out compliance checks can ensure there is always someone on hand for employees to work with.”
Considering all of this, it is unquestionably crucial that each company and their HR teams have an outlet to open up conversations around Safety. When this channel breaks down, or if it fails to exist in the first place, the ramifications are enormous. “A significant proportion of employees feel relatively powerless in expressing voice about important considerations relating to their treatment at work. Indeed, as mentioned, 38% stated that their working conditions are not negotiated at all” [cipd.co.uk]. Contact us today for more information on HCM solutions’ impact on providing comprehensive employee sup.
This article was originally published on the HR Director website - HR Director website
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