When we talk about human resources, we think about recruitment in general.
However, HR professionals are not only tasked to find top talent, recruit and hire. They also have an important role to play in ensuring the safety and well-being of employees.
In this post, we explore the different ways HR departments create a healthy, engaged, and thriving workforce.
Providing a Healthy Work Environment
An organization's HR department plays a key role in administering and championing health and safety policies across the company.
As the world continues to battle the pandemic and employees return to work, more comprehensive health protocols in the workplace should be implemented.
HR personnel should stay updated with the information and protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and follow instructions of safety professionals.
It is generally agreed that a healthy and happy workforce is a productive workforce. Studies have shown that when safety and health policies are applied and followed consistently across the company, employees tend to have better satisfaction working at the site.
Therefore, by ensuring safety procedures and health policies, HR teams can boost employee morale amidst the global health crisis and also help new employees settle in. In turn, this results in improved quality, efficiency, and profitability for the organization.
Furthermore, HR teams should tackle wellness programs, workers' compensation, and similar projects that promote health and wellbeing among employees.
Many companies are doing it now. Among the most popular and effective approaches include creating on-site fitness centers, transit options, paramedical services, healthy snacks, employee assistance programs, and mental health coverage in employees' insurance plans.
Maintaining Regular Safety Trainings
The health and safety of employees should be the number one concern of HR teams.
For many companies, the following are the key workplace safety programs that should be included in employee safety trainings:
Emergency and fire safety - knowing what to do in case of fire can make employees feel more at ease in the workplace. While they aren't supposed to be fighting fires, employees need to know how to stay safe and report an incident.
Environmental safety - this varies widely per industry and can include topics like general office safety, electrical safety, garbage disposal, and many more to ensure a safe environment of the workplace.
Online safety and cybersecurity - many employees still work from home, which means companies are more prone to hacking, information theft, and other forms of cybercrimes. Training employees on how to keep their data safe is crucial to protecting company assets.
Ensuring Employee Understanding of Workplace Safety
HR teams should be working on raising awareness that workplace safety management is an individual responsibility.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, workplace safety has become one of the main priorities for organizations around the world. Unsafe workplaces can be detrimental to a company's reputation as it has serious legal and financial consequences for employers. To protect employees, United States OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) created a guidance on mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace and all industries should work accordingly to ensure their workers safety and wellbeing during these difficult times.
Furthermore, creating a safe working environment is associated with better employee satisfaction and retention, less downtime, and less restraining time.
How to create effective workplace safety training programs:
Appoint an employee safety leader.
No matter the size of the organization, it's important to have a person in charge of ensuring that workplace safety protocols are observed.
Safety leaders are tasked to:
- Supervise employees when performing tasks.
- Conduct safety and training education.
- Ensure that employees are held accountable to safety rules.
- Provide resources so employees can safely perform their tasks.
- Create a supportive environment for safety by ensuring that employees maintain a healthy workload.
Conduct emergency planning.
HR personnel should create a definite plan to help employees prepare for major emergencies. This can include anything from first aid and CPR training to evacuation drills, rescue operations, calling for external aid, and more.
Address safety in every position.
While the risk of injury in offices is lower than that in construction sites, ergonomic workplace injuries result in costly compensation claims and loss of productivity.
Office safety guidelines should include office ergonomics. This covers practices like observing proper posture, opting for elevators when carrying heavy loads, using handrails on the stairs, obeying and enforcing non-smoking rules, practicing good housekeeping, reporting structural issues, etc.
Require 100% reporting.
HR teams should also ensure that all accidents, no matter how small, are reported immediately to a supervisor and medical attention sought when appropriate.
Additionally, some safety and accident data should be reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Incidents of workplace safety aren't limited to physical injuries. They also include unethical behavior, harassment, and unfair treatment of employees.
Help Employees Feel Comfortable
It is the primary responsibility of HR departments to ensure that employees feel comfortable at work.
To achieve this goal, HR professionals are tasked to create benefits programs that include health care as well as career development.
In many surveys, employees report that mental health issues are their biggest well-being concern.
60% of workers suffer from stress and burnout. Aside from the fear of getting sick, many employees are also worried about social wellness or lacking opportunities to connect with others.
What do all these mean for HR teams?
Today more than ever, HR leaders need to actively take steps in supporting the mental health of employees. Here are some of the most effective strategies that many HR teams are doing today to show empathy, drive employee engagement, and boost morale:
Encourage social support among employees by organizing support groups that meet regularly whether virtually or on-site.
Offer flexible scheduling. Specialized programs can include flextime, telecommuting, and paid time off policies.
Address workplace stress. Ensure that workloads are appropriate, encourage feedback, and recognize or celebrate employees' success.
Review benefits. More and more companies are incorporating mental healthcare in employees' health plans. Some other benefits that are worth exploring are free or subsidized lifestyle coaching, counseling, and self-management programs.
Provide resources. Make employees feel comfortable about seeking help when they need to by providing them with the right resources.
Provide mental health training. This helps eliminate the stigma that surrounds mental health. Encourage employees to speak openly about mental health and train managers to handle potentially difficult conversations with employees surrounding this aspect.
Promoting Employee Happiness
A happy employee is a productive employee, the cliche goes.
Aside from that, happy employees are also more creative and are better team players.
However, contrary to what many people think, salary increases aren’t the key to employee happiness. Studies have shown that encouraging happiness in the workplace is best done through the following:
Recognizing employees' progress. This means ensuring that people feel that their contributions are rewarded through acknowledgment.
Making employees feel like they belong. Promoting camaraderie and team spirit is vital to both onsite and virtual teams.
Making the workplace fun. Building a positive and strong company culture is a key ingredient to employee success.
Encouraging healthy lifestyles. A healthy body suggests a healthy mind.
Promote a positive work environment. Little efforts can go a long way. Things like providing a group lunch, offering unlimited coffee in the office, weekend get-togethers, or reserving prime parking space are simple things that can have a lasting impact on employees’ happiness.
Monitoring Employee Well-being
Well-being should be a consistent concern for HR professionals. This can be a challenge especially in the "new normal" where many employees are still working from home.
It's important to create a clear guideline on how to address safety and well-being concerns regardless of their work setup. Furthermore, HR and direct managers should regularly check in with their team members as a way of looking after them and making them feel that they are not alone, and showing that their work is appreciated.
As people practitioners, HR has the crucial task of balancing the best interests of the employees with those of the organization.
It's a difficult challenge but there are ways to make both ends meet. It all starts with creating clear policies on health and safety and going the extra mile to support workers’ mental health and happiness.
About Author: Mariam is a Hygiene Specialist working with SONO Healthcare. She has been interested in health and cleaning issues since she was young and wants to share her knowledge and experience with others who are not indifferent to cleanup. Mariam is deeply convinced that house cleaning is a critical part of hygiene. On a regular basis, she delivers new cleaning expert advice on how to treat products, tools, different items, which sometimes include medical instruments and equipment as well.