As businesses and workplaces begin planning to reopen offices and stores following the COVID-19 pandemic, health and safety remains top of mind. To reopen, critical communication between companies and their employees will be extremely important. After analyzing the results of our recent 2020 Workplace Safety Survey, we found several blind spots related to both workplace safety and communication that could be detrimental to a business if left unaddressed. In our informational webinar last week, we discussed how to overcome communication challenges while preparing for the unique obstacles to come in a post-COVID world.
The webinar was presented by Ravers Carolyn Berk, Content Marketing Specialist, and Kevin Hatline, Customer Success Manager, and they ran through the new reality of employee critical communication. Berk kicked off the webinar discussing the era of a ‘new normal’, with many companies and organizations across the United States working remotely, and then delved into the findings from the 2020 Workplace Safety Survey.
2020 Workplace Safety Survey
Earlier this year Rave Mobile Safety conducted a comprehensive Workplace Safety Survey interviewing over 585 full-time employees across the United States. Respondents worked in various verticals including healthcare, education, manufacturing, retail, and other professional services. Although the survey was conducted before the pandemic, there were 4 telling responses businesses can learn from.
- Disconnection Between Employer and Employees
63% of surveyed employees said that email was their primary source of emergency communication. Although email is what their companies used most, respondents noted that their most preferred communication methods were mass text messages (38%) and intercoms (35%). This shows there is a disconnection between employers and employees, as employers typically make the decision on how they will notify and communicate with employees without considering how an employee’s day is laid out. Workers may not be checking emails right away when an urgent emergency communication is sent out.
- Some Employees are Unaware of Safety Plans
With an above average hurricane season predicted, and other looming workplace safety risks, having clear and concise safety plans in place is key. 48% of respondents said they experienced severe weather in the last year and 76% of employers said they have an emergency plan for severe weather. With that being said, 40% of employees responded claiming they have never practiced response with workplace safety drills. Having the plans in place is important but sharing these plans and practicing with employees so that they know what to do in the case of an emergency could end up saving lives.
Uncertainty is the Only Guarantee
It's safe to assume that things won’t suddenly or immediately go back to normal. Companies will likely have to adjust for factors such as:
- Immunodeficient employees who can’t risk exposure
- Ensuring sick employees avoid the workplace
- Maintaining adequate staffing when employees are out sick
- Adjusting shifts to improve social distancing
During the webinar we polled individuals on the following question:
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, was your workplace prepared to respond?
- We already had a plan in place that helped guide our response.
- We made a plan after COVID-19 hit.
- We are currently developing a plan.
- We don’t have a plan yet, but we intend to develop one.
- We have not addressed pandemics and don’t plan to.
57% of respondents selected option A – We already had a plan in place that helped guide out response, and 43% of respondents selected option B – We made a plan after COVID-19 hit.
- Emergency Communication Falling Apart
Our 2020 Workplace Safety Survey found that 43% of respondents said their workplaces use an intercom for critical communication, such as for an active shooter threat. Unfortunately, now this channel is insufficient with many employees now working remotely at home.
- Lone of Remote Workers Left in the Dark
72% of surveyed workers who spend more than 25% of their work hours outside of the workplace said that they are not required to do safety check-ins with employers, and unfortunately, 13% of respondents claimed they feel unsafe while working. Employers are responsible for remote workers and traveling workers even though they are not physically in the office. Checking in with employees may make them feel more valued and less unsafe on the job.
Overcoming Existing Communication Challenges
Berk concluded her findings from the 2020 Workplace Safety Survey and turned the mic over to Kevin Hatline to discuss some solutions to overcome communication challenges within the workplace. As a remote worker himself, he’s used to not being in an office environment and can bring his expertise to those experiencing challenges when working from home.
Technology Can Help
Technology can absolutely be a help in overcoming communication challenges, but it is important to choose a solution that has a simple interface and is easy to use. Having an easy-to-use technology is helpful as people and employees can remember the software better. Solutions that are over complicated could be more of a hassle and essentially become a barrier. Users will also spend less time training as a simple interface will make it easy on all employees.
Bridge the Critical Communication Gap
It’s important to think about an employees’ work environment and average day, and make sure to include a type of notification that works for them. By providing several options, employees can choose which would resonate best for the type of work they are doing. For example, if a worker is away from their computer for extended times throughout the day, email wouldn’t be the best type of notification.
Keep Resources Within Reach
It’s important to keep resources, such as a company safety plan, clear and easily accessible. Conducting safety drills is also essential. When employees actually act out what they should do, instead of just reading or hearing about it, then they’ll remember and be more prepared to react in an actual emergency.
Embrace Multi-Channel Communication
Gone are the days of just email communications. Investing in multiple communication channels accounts for all types of work environments can be very useful for a business. This could mean reaching employees via text notifications, phone calls, emails, digital signage, and more. Having multiple communication channels also allows employers to reach employees outside of work hours, if necessary.
Accessibility is Everything
It’s important to keep up on employee health, regardless to if they’re working remotely or coming into the workplace. An increase of remote workers proves that employees need to be there, even if they’re not physically present.
During the webinar we polled individuals on the following question:
What is the biggest post-coronavirus concern?
- Maintaining continuity and productivity
- Ensuring sick employees do not expose the workplace
- Modifying the workplace for better social distancing
- Improving employee communication
- All of the above
40% of respondents selected option ‘B’ – Ensuring sick employees do not expose the workplace, 40% of respondents selected option ‘E’ – All of the above, and 13% of respondents selected option ‘C’ – Modifying the workplace for better social distancing.
Tips to Prepare for this New Reality
As we all adjust to this new reality, it’s important to keep the good news in mind. Employees across the country have likely already made adjustments, prepping them for new, post-COVID procedures.
When we get back into our offices, it’s likely you'll could see others such as deliveries, contactors, patients, guests, and anyone else who may be visiting the workplace during the day. When there are more people, there is more exposure. It’s important for a company to make sure it’s able to communicate procedures with those who aren’t in the immediate workforce.
Businesses should also look into safety solutions that can be incorporated into existing investments. If a company has digital signage or PA systems, for example, looking for a solution that can integrate within those systems can be extremely useful. Depending on the capabilities of a solution, they can be used for day-to-day communication needs.
A flexible safety solution is necessary so that a business has the tools on hand to help regardless of what surprises lay ahead. You can use a solution, such as a critical communications platform, to address existing safety issues, like incorporating this solution into a plan for reacting to an active assailant or severe weather event.
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