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Returning to the Workplace – Employee Reluctance

As COVID active cases appear more and more under control, many employers are looking to a return to the workplace. What happens when employees resist the return? Other than the legal and health issues required by an employer for a COVID Safe Workplace, how can you overcome resistance from your employees?

Firstly, is the return to the workplace absolutely necessary? Can you objectively justify the need and evidence that productivity can only increase by working back at the workplace?

One common resistance may be that an employee believes they were capable of performing at full productive capacity from home and therefore does not see the need to return to the workplace. Whilst they may have been productive at home, are you able to evidence that this was also during a time of reduced overall business activity and therefore the functions they would perform only at the workplace were not necessarily required whilst they were working from home.

Perhaps evidence may include the fact that suppliers or customers were also working at a reduced capacity and this reduced the need for your staff to function within in the workplace however now that this has changed, the requirement exists for your employees to return.

As an overview, if you can evidence with data why it is essential that employees return to the workplace, use it to strengthen you case.

Secondly, discuss their reluctance. Understand their reasons for not wanting to return. Some examples may include:

  • Commute by public transport or other where COVID safety would be beyond both their own and the employers’ control;
  • Cost savings such as travel, laundry expenses etc;
  • Reduced meetings and other distractions that would occur if in the workplace resulting in greater productivity from home;
  • Easier to manage commitments such as child care and other activities;
  • Greater flexibility in when and how work is performed when home based.

Consider the reasons provided. Determine if there is any way you can assist with their concerns ie., part time at workplace, part time at home, change of work times to reduce commute times and crowd numbers.

Thirdly, consider ways to entice your employees back. Hold welcome back events such as morning teas and lunches. Ensure your management are meeting with employees regularly to discuss any problems or concerns they are facing with the change of coming back to the workplace. Remember it is natural to make routines around your situation. If employees have been home based for months, they will not be in a routine that requires travel to and from the workplace, or they have possibly cancelled any childcare provisions whilst they have been at home. This will mean that some of your employees are also dealing with the impacts of a change in routine for dependents.

It is important to reinforce the good things as well as the operational needs of working together in a central location.

This article was originally published by HR Advice Online. For more information about our partnership, click here.

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The Goldilocks of HR Advice

Not too small, not too big, just right.

It’s 3.00pm on a Friday and you’re asked, “What’s the policy on Social Media?” You realise you haven’t seen updated policies for over 12 months and you’re not sure your organisation has a Social Media Policy. Help!

No matter how big or how small an organisation, there are head-scratching HR issues you just wish you could talk through with someone.

At Slade Group, we’re no different. We have to stay close to all HR and labour legislation, Fair Work, Awards and all relevant rulings.  We’re not big enough to warrant a full-time in-house People and Culture leader, but we’re in an industry that has to be absolutely attuned to the world of Human Resources.   

This is our Secret Santa gift to you… HR Advice Online is like that product or service you didn’t know had been invented, and then when you find out about it you think, why didn’t I think of that!?

Your delight will be like ours when you discover there’s now a service where you can talk to a live qualified HR practitioner about all those things that would normally keep you up at night:

  • Which award, if any, are my employees covered by?
  • My business only has a small number of employees, so can I terminate an employee at any time?
  • Annual Leave Loading – we don’t need to pay that?
  • What do I need to have in place for employees working from home?
  • We pay above the Award, so therefore we’re not covered by the Award, right?

If you’d like to know more, let us know and we’ll put you in touch with the right people, or have a look at our HR Advice Online page under the Employer Services section on our website. 

Sweet dreams and a happy New Year!

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Are your employees safe Working from Home?

Whilst it is generally accepted that many businesses made a rapid almost overnight transition to work from home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, eight months on, are your employees safe?

With many employees moving to work from home arrangements initially working from makeshift work areas such as kitchen benches, couches and even lap tables in bed, what are you doing to ensure your employees have moved to more ergonomically suitable work specific areas to reduce their risk of injury or illness?

Flexible arrangements forced by the pandemic are becoming the new ‘normal’ for many workplaces with the realisation that technology, video conferencing and reduced travel time can result in a more productive and less expensive workplace however, these costs will increase greatly if employees are working from home without a suitable set up.

The Work Health and Safety obligations on an employer require that they provide a workplace that is free of risk to their employees so far as is reasonably practicable. As the home office is simply an extension to the workplace, an employer is obligated to ensure that the employee has a suitable work area, as they would be obligated to do so in the office location.

Musculoskeletal injuries caused by poor ergonomic work areas is an obvious risk when considering what injuries may occur in work from home settings. Other injuries and illnesses may include; social isolation from not working in a workplace with their colleagues; fatigue and burnout from not having a work area that they can walk away from forcing that work life balance; and stress caused by job uncertainty.

It is recommended that workplaces begin to return to a new COVID norm, that a reassessment of the flexible work arrangements be undertaken to include the actual workspace setups employees have and how they have coped working in that environment. 

Now is also the time to ensure you have well documented policies, procedures and employment documents which are imperative for clarity of expectations for employees who work remotely due to their lack of face to face contact.

To greater assist your employees with work from home and to minimise their risk you should:-

  • Update all work from home documentation including policies, procedures and checklists to ensure they are fit for purpose.
  • Clarify when a work from home employee is ‘at work’ and when it is their personal time.  Consideration could be given to even shutting off access for employees to systems indicating that they have finished for the day.
  • Talk to your employees regarding safety whilst working at home. Ensure they are aware that their obligation to keep themselves safe and to report any injury, incident or near miss continues to exist as the home is their extended workplace.
  • Investigate any incidents, injuries promptly to understand if they are a work related injury and to assist the employee to reduce or eliminate any future risk.

This article was originally published by HR Advice Online. For more information about our partnership, click here.

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