Workplace re-entry and psychological safety
Nurture Marketing Specialist at Kineo APAC
A COVID-safe return to work is an obvious topic and it's trending for valid reasons. As we contemplate our last 12 weeks hunkering down to minimise the spread of COVID, large numbers of people have been continuing their business activities in heightened levels of isolation. Some are filtering back into the workplace, others are contemplative and in no hurry, and those on the front line in essential services have carried on as usual yet with much higher COVID related risk. Work health and safety is as relevant as ever. What we are faced with now is a whole lot of future uncertainty and this affects our psychological safety. In a workplace setting, psychological safety post COVID means knowing that you can turn up in a COVID-Safe environment and be yourself without facing negative outcomes.
Returning to work
When the nation went into lockdown, IT departments worked relentlessly to ensure the right level of technology was put in place to enable remote working arrangements. Where existing technology fell short, apps like ‘Zoom’ came to the rescue - and are still going strong.
Parents working from home have juggled childcare and remote-based schooling. I know I’ve witnessed a lot of interesting makeshift workspaces through the screen while being entertained by curious pets!
The lack of physical social interaction and changing Government COVID safety rules that ensued for weeks on end had a significant psychological effect on us all. Without a doubt we’ve all felt discombobulated or “out of sorts” with the uncertainty of what the future holds.
Back to the workplace
Different industries require different approaches. Where there are many workers operating in a single space, provision has been made to comply with the Government’s 1.5m physical distancing requirements and 4 square metre rule. Business planning has already begun. HR and organisational leaders are conducting risk management activities and rolling out their COVID-Safe plans. Beyond the management and ongoing monitoring of that plan they should now look to prioritise their workers’ psychological and emotional safety.
Leaders should exercise an openness to making the team feel workplace safe in their newly configured surroundings and also be patient whilst people are transitioning back into their pre COVID workspace.
Add to this the confusion of those not wanting to return to the workplace at all and others willing to return on a part-time basis. After all, there are tools in place to measure transparency while there is no current COVID-19 vaccine.
How can leaders best manage worker expectations and their psychological wellbeing?
As part of the re-entry roll out process and in order to allay individual’s fears and concerns, HR and organisational leaders should gather feedback from workers through surveys and high level communication, including one-on-ones, about the measures that are being taken to ensure everyone’s safety.
Concerns go beyond the workplace itself where other factors such as public transport, family exposure and fears of the unknown. Some individuals won’t be comfortable speaking up as they feel it could be seen as a weakness.
How Kineo Courses can help you smoothly transition back into the workplace
To help with workplace re-entry and tackle psychological safety, Kineo Courses is excited to be unveiling a practical, straight to the point COVID-Safe Workplace course that will be available soon. This elearning will complement our COVID-19 Coronavirus Prevention course as well as others related to this topic, namely Stress Less at Work and Mental Health in the Workplace
You may also be interested to read our sister company, The Oxford Group’s ahead-of-its-time article, Why psychological safety is the key to creativity and innovation in the workplace. This explores the neuroscience behind our need to feel safe to be creative and follows on from our current economy’s next steps for ‘build forward’.