The full article in HR Zone can be found here.
Many of us are hopeful that the summer of 2021 will bring with it a return to normality. Zoom quizzes have not quite been the replacement for going to the pub on a Friday night that we initially hoped they might be, and despite the initial excitement from the early days of the pandemic that came with scrapping the commute and dialling into team meetings from the breakfast table, even returning to the office – whatever form that takes – is something that many people are looking forward to.
For business leaders, there is some uncertainty about what this return to the office will look like. How much will the “new normal” become embedded in the office culture of the future? How will business leaders integrate long-term flexible working, as well as additional health and safety measures, into their return-to-work plans?
While these questions are being considered, one thing remains consistent among business leaders in their ongoing discussions about a return to the office: There is a heightened awareness of, and interest in, staff wellbeing.
Employee welfare has been a hot topic for a number of years, with many firms expanding their HR departments, organising wellbeing groups for employees, introducing in-house mental health support, and mandating staff getaway days. This focus on staff welfare did not disappear during the pandemic, although firms had to adapt by moving these services and initiatives online.
As businesses slowly return to the office, and likely transition into a new way of working – which is looking more and more like a hybrid model combining working-from-home flexibility with the option of in-person office days – how can business leaders ensure they remain responsible for the welfare and wellbeing of their staff?
Firms are not just considering how to approach overall staff wellness as they return to the office, either. There is also the question of whether they need to implement a coronavirus testing strategy within the workplace, too, which many firms will look upon as a safety measure to assuage fears employees may have in returning to the office. Take Goldman Sachs, in London, for example, which has repurposed its medical centre inside the firm’s City building for use as an internal staff coronavirus testing centre.
One such technology business leaders can consider as they develop wellbeing plans for their staff is the use of crisis communications software.
While traditionally used to provide simple, two-way communication between a business and its employees on a large scale during an emergency – a national disaster, a fire in the building, or a terrorist incident in the firm’s city – crisis communication tools can be adapted to suit the needs of firms looking to maintain any crucial communications at a large scale. For example, to ensure business leaders and managers are keeping in touch with all staff from a wellness perspective.
The features in a crisis communications app are readymade for company-wide communications in the COVID-19 era. The app can use targeted location tracking – both at a large scale, as well as on smaller team scales– which could be utilised for staff members to “check in” to their physical office, notifying their managers or colleagues about their working patterns.
An additional feature is the ability for users to upload and share images across their teams or organisations. For workplaces that are looking to adopt a negative-test requirement for staff members to visit the office, such a feature could be repurposed to create a system of collecting and approving images of negative COVID-19 tests, which are sent directly to managers or organisation leaders for quick approval.
Even just the ability to send wellness messages on a company-wide scale, offering wellbeing check-ins, and keeping staff up to date with how a firm’s COVID response is developing – and being able to require responses back from recipients– can offer organisations a means of slick, two-way communications that is guaranteed to reach every employee or staff member. As many businesses continue to work-from-home, an effective means of two-way communication ensures no single employee is left out and that employers are meeting their corporate obligations to prioritise staff welfare, even when completely remote.
Crucially for both employers and employees, crisis communications tools such as do not compromise on security. Employees’ image or location data is not at risk of being shared with anyone outside of the organisation they are tied to, and employers can be assured that deploying the app across their organisation adheres to the highest data protection standards as set out by GDPR.
While it may take some time for business leaders and their employees to adapt to a new way of working, there are a number of technical solutions companies can consider to make the transition smoother, and to ensure that all staff are working in a way that prioritises both their wellness and productivity.