Despite “Phase Two” being in effect in Singapore, most employees are still working from home. According to the Singapore government, this is done to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. As a HR outsourcing agency in Singapore, we’re keen on providing the best safety precautions to ensure employee safety.
Until there is a vaccine for COVID-19 or “Phase Three” is in effect, it is likely that offices will have to make some changes to accommodate returning employees. However, safe distancing protocol and budget constraints might require elaborate plans for employees’ return to the office.
Below are some ways for HR executives to prepare employees for their return to the office:
1. Implement safety precautions
Even if both the virus and the pandemic is under control, there needs to be proper safety precautions in place. For better and worse, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world and brought in a new normal. Some safety precautions you might want to consider include:
Keep it clean: The general upkeep and cleanliness of the office should now be overseen by both the employers and the organization’s HR team. When possible, replace high touch items and products with contactless ones (e.g. auto dispensers for hand sanitizers and soap). In fact, the guidelines set by the Ministry of Manpower state that employers will have to ensure both the regular cleaning of common spaces. Read BGC Group’s tips and tricks for proper office cleanliness during the pandemic here.
Access to cleaning products: Encourage your employees to keep their working areas clean by providing them access to cleaning products such as disinfecting wipes and sanitizers. These should also be kept near commonly shared and held items (i.e. mouse, keyboard, communal office phones, and water coolers). According to the guidelines set by the Ministry of Manpower, employers will have to provide essential cleaning and disinfecting agents. The examples listed include disinfectant sprays, paper towels, soap, and toilet paper.
Don’t share: One of the most important rules to advocate for at work is to discourage sharing to curb the spread of illnesses. Getting rid of shared office cutlery and utensils would be a great start. Employers should encourage their staff to bring their own personal mugs, cutlery, and water bottles instead of using shared cutlery.
Provide protection: We cannot stress this enough. Your employees need to feel protected and cared for during these uncertain times. Providing masks and adequate disinfecting supplies are a few examples of “protection” that employers can provide.
Learn more about the Ministry of Manpower requirements for Singaporean employers to adhere to here.
2. Offer your employees flexibility
A staggered working schedule is one way to introduce the team back into the office, slowly. It allows employees who either work in the same team or in close proximity to one another. Perhaps we can adhere to the rules stipulated in Singapore’s “Phase 2” plan.
Some inspiration that could potentially be useful is to adhere to the five people per gathering rule. As such, try keeping larger departments to a small group of five per staggered shift. For the uninitiated, the rule of five people per gathering is inspired by the outlines initiated by the Singapore government. More information on the Phase 2 and Phase 3 regulations set by the government can be found here.
Additionally, despite resuming “normal” day to day activities, safe distancing measures should still be practiced. Refrain from allowing ill employees to visit the office and other employees. Limiting non-essential overseas traveling for employees who want to travel for business or personal holidays. Just for the time being.
In a poll conducted by HCAMAG, more than 1 in 4 Singaporeans employees don’t feel safe returning to work. These fearful feelings stem from one of these concerns such as:
Re-emergence of COVID-19
The fear that co-workers won’t comply with safety measures set by HR at the workplace
Failure to comply with the safety measures enacted by HR
In the same article by HCAMAG, vulnerable employees want flexible schedules. To put it simply, they want to be able to work from home half the time, and work the other half at work. This could be something your organization can work on, if possible.
Keep in mind that your employees have spent a substantial amount of time working from home. As such, these workers might have grown accustomed to working from home. There might be a need for employers to provide mental health services to workers adjusting to the new normal. Here at BGC Group, we understand the importance of employee mental health.
HR executives and employers in Singapore looking to understand more should check out:
3. Have a Safety Plan
Let’s say that office activities have resumed as per normal. It’d be overkill to have a safety plan for when an employee gets diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus right? Well, not necessarily. Having a safety plan is just a great precaution to have, just in case. As an active recruitment agency, we know the importance of having a backup plan. Which is why we’ve written about the measures all organizations in Singapore should take note of — should there be a COVID-19 case at your workplace here.
However, precaution measures that can take place include:
Temperature taking: Mandatory temperature checks are the first in your line of defense against COVID-19. Additionally, remind employees to use the Safe Entry app to check-in and out of the office.
Determine an isolation room: Let’s say you have an employee exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms in the office. You will need a place to isolate the ill employee from otherwise healthy co-workers whilst waiting for the ambulance to come. As such, you will need to find a safe space that’s furthest away from your other workers.
Discourage large gatherings: Until “Phase 3” is in effect, discourage your employees from hanging out in large groups when working in the office. Remind them in the nicest way possible to keep their distance (unless in groups of less than five) from one another unless it is for work purposes.
Keep in mind that the advice here is not exhaustive! Check back for more updates detailing tips on how HR employees in Singapore can prepare employees for their return to the office.
Are you ready to accommodate your employees’ return in the coming months? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!