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Creating a Covid-Safe Work Culture

May 20, 2021

Here’s a snapshot of the powerful ways how employee recognition can play a key role in driving organisational pandemic protocol. 

Why a cutting-edge recognition and rewards strategy is the ally you need! 

Organisations and employees continue to weather the Covid-19 crisis that has shaken every dynamic between manager and team and colleagues new and old. Old working styles are getting diffused. New ones are taking their place with the health, well-being, and safety of employees becoming paramount.

High-performing teams are built on trust. But rarely that trust has been about ensuring each other’s health and safety. It is clear the future of organisations now relies heavily on employees, on every rung of the ladder, performing their professional roles but also creating, adhering to, and advocating rigorous Covid-19 safety norms. This is crucial to mitigate workplace accidents, incidents, and SARS-CoV-2 exposure risk. 

Encourage right behaviours to inspire others

Anyone who has ever tried to change behaviour — their own, or someone else’s — knows that it’s harder than it appears. Change takes cognitive ability, it is hard work, it is challenging. That’s why behaviour-based safety that propels positive reinforcement plays a key role when trying to make a new habit or technique stick.

Employee recognition encourages employees to stick to the right behaviours such as taking Covid safety precautions at work or complying with social distancing norms. If you want your teams to adopt new practices; practices that involve promoting vaccination, fostering frequent hand washing, or encouraging respiratory etiquettes, special recognition is a must.

For instance, if you recognise employees who stay at home if they are sick or self-monitor for symptoms of Covid-19, others will get inspired to take collective steps towards similar behaviour-based safety, in turn preparing workplaces to function successfully in these challenging times.

Ease employee stress

Let’s face it, Covid-19 has been one of the most staggering disruptions most of us have dealt within our lifetimes. Personal and professional upheaval; increased and changed responsibilities towards families; the very acute fear of losing loved ones to sickness; a run-on resource to keep oneself protected… your employees bring all these anxieties to work every single time they log in online or punch into the office physically.

Add to that the need to adapt to Covid-19 safety practices, and you’ve got a scenario in which your employee feels even more burdened rather than motivated. The way out?  

Increasing rewards to enhance the mental and physical well-being of employees. According to Gartner, 68% of organisations have added at least one reward to help employees during the pandemic with 20% of HR leaders offering hazard pay to on-site workers. Organisations can even provide free access to meditation applications or take care of frontline workers’ through a comprehensive wellbeing program.

While there are no quick fixes to ease employee stress, re-evaluating your health and welfare plans with regard to pandemic inclusions is integral to long-term covid norm adoption.  At the same time, modifying paid-leave flexibility and child-care benefits for remote employees can be a good way to earn employee trust.

Institute and Recognise BCP Warriors

Shortly after the start of the pandemic, most organisations took urgent steps to run operations with minimized staff. Fast forward to 2021- organisations are bringing back their teams to curtail business disruption and ensure continuity. However, given the unprecedented health, social and economic risks of Covid-19 pandemic, businesses can’t go back to as usual.

How do you then ensure seamless remote working for off-site workers and strict hygiene and social distancing protocols for on-site workers? Having a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) taskforce in place ensures that everyone is equipped with the right tools and technology to operate smoothly from home. They can also send regular reminders to teammates regarding the safety and hygiene practices to combat Covid-19 outbreak.

When it comes to encouraging BCP warriors to keep up the critical and exemplary work, peer-to-peer recognition is crucial.  One way to do it is encouraging employees to nominate their peers who are going the extra mile to prepare for future work conditions and helping teammates work safely from home.

Ongoing appreciation for the work done above and beyond the job role connects employees to company culture while bringing teams together to uphold organisational values and move the business forward.

Trigger social impact by celebrating small victories

To build a consistent culture of following safety norms, you need to recognise the challenges of fitting in the new Covid safe culture. This is not just important to acknowledge that everyone is going through a change, it is also an ethical way to create long-lasting bonds with employees.

Celebrating small victories around workplace safety is one of the powerful ways of recognising that everybody is adapting. This is why, when intelligently implemented, it can help deliver almost magical results. They can encourage teams as a whole to do better and can facilitate social impacts across organisational teams.

The benefits of recognition can rub off on others around us: recognising people for their commitment to wearing a mask, getting vaccinated, or their ability to take care of ill family members, help instill a sense of what is important in unprecedented times.

For instance, organisations can share photos of employees with their vaccine certification on their social network in a form of victory celebrations. This influences others to inculcate similar habits and practices of victors, thereby serving the mission of generating a Covid safe culture.

Create multiplier effect by involving everyone

Recognition can happen at all levels, bring everyone together. This way businesses can recognise the right behaviour across the organisation. For instance, leaders can be recognised for successfully handling their WFH teams, managers for bringing in innovative ways to adopt Covid-19- safety and operational practices, and employees for desired behaviours. Hence, this kind of peer-to-peer recognition leads to a multiplier effect, where everyone exhibits organisational values in action and decisions.

For instance, you can encourage employees at all levels to huddle up for weekly 10-minute meetings where everyone- from top management to the newest employee can recognise each other’s positive behaviour. This will not only engage teams but will also actively promote collaboration among team members for following best Covid-19 safety practices — resulting in healthy workplace culture.

When crafting an employee reward and recognition strategy, it’s important to recognise that Work from Home (WFH) and hybrid models will have different motivations and will need different frameworks, both for the adoption of safety practices as well as for employee performance and productivity. It’s also important to realise this is an indispensable part of great management and can only be effective when treated as a formal management process rather than an ad-hoc strategy employed by individual managers or team leaders. Build a great employee recognition and rewards program and you’ll find your employees have become your advocates, your workforce is motivated, your clients are thriving, and your business is shock resistant. 

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