Employers making plans for return-to-work processes: survey

The majority (93 per cent) of Canadian employers plan to favour a government-based approach when it comes to bringing their employees back to work, according to a new survey by Aon.

The survey, which reached more than 500 Canadian organizations in late April, also found 82 per cent of respondents said they’ll stagger return to work by role prioritization, while 71 per cent said they’ll stagger it by geography or location.

Upon employees’ return to the workplace, all survey respondents said they’ll implement temperature check sites hosted by trained staff, thermal cameras or on a self-reporting basis. Most companies said they’ll request that their employees complete a health assessment survey upon their return.

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“Although the humanitarian and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to climb, many organizations are beginning to shift their focus from crisis management and business continuity to planning a safe return to work, amidst a new normal for business operations once stay-at-home regulations begin to relax,” said Rejean Tremblay, chief commercial officer at Aon, in a press release. “This survey shows that Canadian organizations are taking proactive steps to improve their workplace and ease the return to the office.”

Only 41 per cent respondents said they plan to implement a formal coronavirus testing program for their workforce, while 52 per cent said they’re considering such a program. For organizations that plan to conduct testing for employees, a third said they’ll enlist an onsite designated test provider, while 40 per cent said they’re considering it. And a quarter (25 per cent) of respondents said they prefer to engage an offsite designated test provider, with 50 per cent considering that option.

The survey also found 60 per cent of organizations said they’re planning to provide employees with personal protective equipment when they return to work, while 32 per cent said they’re seriously considering it. However, employers also indicated they’ll provide and/or facilitate hand sanitizer stations, cleaning supplies for individual work spaces, gloves, masks and/or face shields for their employees onsite. Nearly all (92 per cent) respondents said they’ll close access to common areas and 97 per cent said it’s likely they’ll reconfigure their office layout to create a safer environment.

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Employers were also asked how the experience of responding to the coronavirus pandemic might change their future workforce strategies. More than a third (37 per cent) acknowledged a need to review their operations, adding they’re considering a long-term restructuring of their operations and workforce.

More than half (59 per cent) said they’re aiming to encourage more employees to work remotely on a permanent basis and 65 per cent said they’ve recently implemented (or are actively considering) creating a separate task force to support their human resources function in focusing on managing immediate issues, such as crisis management or business continuity planning.

The survey found many organizations are still grappling with operational challenges brought on by the coronavirus. The vast majority of survey respondents are focusing on employee safety (92 per cent), while 84 per cent of companies said they’ve highly prioritized employee communications and total well-being. More than two-thirds (71 per cent) of respondents said they’ve put an increased emphasis on work-life balance.

In addition, among the types of communications employers are sending to employees, 78 per cent said they’re providing new health and safety protocols or processes, following by sending numerous messages from senior leadership (73 per cent), informing employees about the organization’s financial health (40 per cent) and highlighting well-being resources and tools (36 per cent).

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