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Coronavirus COVID-19 Resource Hub:

A resource for businesses

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The Path Forward

In March 2020, we established this dedicated hub as a business resource for our customers to help them manage day-to-day operations when navigating the growing risks associated with COVID-19. As the pandemic and responses to it evolve, we continue to provide content and resources here.

  • How will COVID-19 developments impact and define the challenges ahead?
  • How do businesses and their employees best move forward and adapt to the COVID-19 workplace?
  • How do all of us participate in building a safer, more resilient future?

Lessons and resources to help companies remain open during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We share ideas you can implement to build resilience.

Business travel has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, but many companies are resuming the practice. Here are some travel safety tips to consider. 

Employer focus on mental wellness can help smooth transitions back to offices, retail businesses and other workplaces following COVID shutdowns.

Reduce potential conflicts as employees return to the workplace
Sep 21, 2021

Employer focus on mental wellness can help smooth transitions back to offices, retail businesses and other workplaces following COVID shutdowns.

By Alex Garrison, Zurich Services Risk Engineering Consultant

For more than a year, American businesses have shown remarkable adaptability and resilience in the face of the worst pandemic in a century and the economic challenges it spawned. While the availability of effective coronavirus vaccines has enabled the relaxation of some COVID-19 restrictions, the spread of the Delta variant may result in some businesses slowing or pausing full returns to office and retail settings. However, the pace of returns will eventually pick up as the impact of variants wanes, as companies and their employees seek to return to some degree of pre-pandemic normalcy.

But challenges remain, from threats posed by any new coronavirus variants to stress and potential conflict over mask mandates, continued physical-distancing directives and the proliferation of employer vaccination requirements. In some cases, pent-up impatience with the pace of return to pre-pandemic life, and the accumulated mental stress over the personal challenges of ongoing pandemic restrictions, has boiled over in confrontations in retail establishments, on airliners, on the highways, and workplaces of all kinds — from corporate and professional offices to department stores and supermarkets.

As many Americans begin to return to the workplace, many are experiencing a working environment in which procedures and practices have changed. Specifically, until the pandemic is fully defeated, or the threat is reduced to acceptable levels, many workplaces will likely continue to follow varying degrees of physical distancing, sanitation, masking guidelines and other features that may slow progress toward a new normal. As a result, the potential for workplace conflict, perhaps even violence, will probably continue to exist at greater than pre-pandemic levels.

Resolving conflicts at work, and potentially preventing the progression to violence, will continue to be a critical concern for employers. As some of the policies and procedures to help reduce the risk of coronavirus infections remain in place, businesses will need to continue to engage in clear communication about the need for such practices, while at the same time remaining sensitive to the stress levels not only of their own employees but also of customers and visitors in retail settings, hotels, conference centers, restaurants and other venues.

To help reduce stress and the potential for conflicts, employers must establish an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding of the concerns of employees, customers and others. A workplace or business is safest when individuals believe and feel assured that measures put in place have been implemented to protect them, and that lines of communication are open for them to express their concerns.

Stay informed about evolving CDC recommendations

For most businesses, whether offices or customer-facing venues such as restaurants and retail establishments, following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be a good rule of thumb. The CDC’s dedicated COVID-19 site is your best reference for the most current information about ways to stay safe and prevent the transmission of coronavirus variants in the community.

In implementing any CDC recommendations, maintain open and transparent communication about the reasons for implementing a protocol or best practice, and the importance for employees, customers and family members.

Elevate the importance of mental wellness

All of us have felt the stress of the past months of lockdowns, quarantines, relationship disruptions, and a general sense of loss of control in the everyday world we knew. These stresses manifested themselves in a significant uptick in anxiety and depression, which can carry over into the workplace and become contributing factors in workplace conflicts.

As a result, programs incorporating a focus on mental wellness have never been more important. Once again, open and transparent communication between employers and employees, training personnel on ways to deal with and avoid conflict with members of the public, and cultivating an atmosphere of acceptance and engagement, will be vitally important in helping restore a sense of normalcy.

Recommendations from the MIT Sloan Management Review advise that a culture of acceptance can help employees dealing with mental health issues overcome hesitancy about reaching out and disclosing their feelings, which may also help to reduce the potential for conflicts.1

  • Gather information – Anonymous pulse surveys can be useful tools for detecting developing mental health issues before they contribute to workplace conflicts and other factors inhibiting productivity and wellbeing. Responses to anonymous surveys can help assess an organization’s overall mental wellness climate, potentially helping to identify specific functions or teams requiring support.
  • Actively listen to employees – Create an environment in which employees feel open to communicate how they are feeling. Ask teams what they need, genuinely listen, and respond appropriately. Show them that their concerns are real and will be addressed.
  • Embed wellness in the review process – Learn one-on-one during the review process whether employees feel cared for and whether they believe the company is supporting their wellbeing. These conversations can show individuals that the organization truly cares about them. They can also provide the organization with insights into opportunities to improve and elevate effective wellbeing benefits.

It’s been a difficult journey

The emotional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will linger for some time to come, which is why gauging and responding to the emotional needs of employees and customers must be front and center to help companies address workplace conflicts and disputes. The pandemic has been hard on everyone, and the underlying issues may continue to affect a significant portion of your workforce.

By providing needed information, clear communication and training, employers can help alleviate anxieties and frustrations among employees and customers, and will be better equipped to successfully resolve disputes when they occur.

These are indeed challenging times, but we can plan and adapt to meet those challenges and create a more harmonious workplace and communities. Download Zurich’s Risk Engineering report, “COVID-19 considerations for the office: Managing office disputes.”

Visit Zurich’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Hub.

  1. Laker, Ben, and Roulet, Thomas. “How Organizations Can Promote Employee Wellness, Now and Post-Pandemic.” MIT Sloan Management Review. 24 April 2021

The information in this publication was compiled from sources believed to be reliable for informational purposes only. All sample policies and procedures herein should serve as a guideline, which you can use to create your own policies and procedures. We trust that you will customize these samples to reflect your own operations and believe that these samples may serve as a helpful platform for this endeavor. Any and all information contained herein is not intended to constitute advice (particularly not legal advice). Accordingly, persons requiring advice should consult independent advisors when developing programs and policies. We do not guarantee the accuracy of this information or any results and further assume no liability in connection with this publication and sample policies and procedures, including any information, methods or safety suggestions contained herein. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any of this information, whether to reflect new information, future developments, events or circumstances or otherwise.  Moreover, Zurich reminds you that this cannot be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedure or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances.  The subject matter of this publication is not tied to any specific insurance product nor will adopting these policies and procedures ensure coverage under any insurance policy.

 

For more information on COVID-19 visit Zurich's Coronavirus Resource Hub

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