Now more than ever, having a comprehensive understanding of your company’s workspace, where people sit, eat, gather for meetings, and more, as well as how often and carefully those spaces are cleaned and disinfected is vital knowledge for the overall health of employees and co-workers.
A recent report from ISS facility services highlights the shift in employee concerns:
“Trusted spaces will be the new paradigm. Employees will start to question their workplace and the measures that are being taken to protect them and their colleagues. They will start to ask – is the workplace safe? Will going to work negatively impact my well-being? What new hygiene, cleaning, and disinfection protocols are being put in place?...”
As the focus continues to shift towards understanding the cleanliness of the workplace, and we see increased emphasis on the perception of clean, as well as increased attention focused on WELL Building standards, it will be incredibly important to make sure HR teams are directly involved as workers return to the office in the next normal.
Bringing your Human Resources team into key discussions that relate to strategic planning for your business, including hiring cleaning services, cleaning equipment choices, developing clear cleaning plans and communication around these procedures, and greater emphasis on employee health, will be incredibly important to the overall success of your business.
Clear human resource planning, which includes onboarding and implementation of cleaning plans and service providers, is an important way to make sure the safety of all persons working inside a building is addressed.
Not only that but keeping building occupants safe and healthy has an overall positive impact on company culture and productivity, due to the positive correlation between “clean spaces” and the mental health of employees.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a clean workplace was found to boost worker productivity by up to 5% ...knowing that the workplace is safe and trusted will have an even more profound impact on employees. They will feel the company cares for and supports them, and that feeling generates corporate loyalty.”
The hiring process is key to finding the best fit for your company and this is true for cleaning teams and services as well.
Finding a cleaning service provider that matches business values and protocols will make onboarding and implementation go more smoothly.
Finding a BSC or servicer provider whose language mirrors that of your own can help when discussing the scope of work, setting clear expectations, and providing feedback—all things that can be hard to do when there is a disconnect in standards and expectations between the cleaning service provider and leadership staff.
HR can work on exploring this ahead of time determining where there may be potential communication issues, and planning for how to get ahead of these sooner rather than later.
Or they may decide a service provider is not the right fit before furthering the interview process or bringing cleaning teams in for demos. This can save time and money.
Beyond that, due to the increased importance of clean spaces, Human Resources can work with a chosen service provider to make sure the expectations are set from the beginning. Plus, as a business grows or changes, HR can address those with the cleaning team and service provider since the relationship is already there.
This allows HR to play a role in checking in on standards but also squashing fears employees might have about returning to work in a safe and healthy environment.
One of the most important jobs Human Resource teams have is ensuring workplace safety.
According to Small Business Chronicle:
“Employers have an obligation to provide safe working conditions. Workplace safety and risk management specialists from the HR area manage compliance with U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations through maintaining accurate work logs and records, and developing programs that reduce the number of workplace injuries and fatalities.”
This role can extend much further than the obvious safety compliance issues that manufacturing and industrial companies deal with regularly.
As shifts in perceived building health and safety are addressed, Human Resources plays an important role in communicating the latest information, keeping protocol and processes in line with any state or government mandates, and developing new procedures for how a business will function to keep employees safe and healthy.
As we have seen while working through the COVID-19 pandemic, HR teams are the key source of information for many companies. They handle being aware of all updates, communicating those changes to leadership, and then pushing it out to employees.
The focus on safety will extend to changes in cleaning processes and teams too.
Keeping HR involved in these discussions and the strategic planning that will take place is necessary for employee health and safety.
One example is the adoption of screening people before entering a building that took place as employees returned and continued to return to work.
For many businesses, HR was the team in charge of setting up this type of protocol.
This change also included monitoring the number of people in buildings at one time, as well as helping employees shift to working from home--all things that supported employee health and safety.
Not only is HR tasked with getting necessary information and staying up to date for their state and region, but they are also able to supply insight on timelines and information that may be yet to come, stopping a business from making hasty decisions, but instead guiding towards a flexible long-term plan.
In addition to traditional workplace safety protocol, is the ongoing shift in focus to the health of indoor spaces, as they directly impact physical and mental health. These are a continuation of safety issues that have been pushed into the limelight due to COVID-19, but they are not likely to go away any time soon.
In recent research, as part of their New Normal series, McKinsey notes that due to the unknowns of COVID-19 and other viruses like it, thinking about future impact is important.
McKinsey stresses, businesses will need to have long-term plans for how to deal with potentially similar situations—specifically because the transmission of viruses like this is so hard to control and predict:
“These developments have important lessons for companies: any regime of interventions that they set up cannot ignore presymptomatic and asymptomatic patients. There should be a real focus on facilities and how they are configured.”
Case in point, while working through the complications of COVID-19, understanding the risks associated with having many people in one space became especially important as shown in a recent example noted by McKinsey.
Studies revealed the case of an asymptomatic worker who sneezed into an air conditioning vent, spreading the virus to other workers in the building.
Having this type of information available during strategic planning can help businesses safely decide on shift schedules, the number of people allowed in a building at one time, and even the best placement of where people should be working.
Human Resource teams can even help in deciding the correct types of cleaning equipment to have in a building to help lessen the risk of transmission.
For example, knowing that a cleaning service provider uses autonomous equipment with HEPA filters, like Whiz, an autonomous vacuum sweeper distributed in partnership by ICE Cobotics and SoftBank Robotics, could be a deciding factor in hiring a specific service provider.
Autonomous equipment can mean fewer people in a building at one time, and with Whiz, the use of a HEPA filter. These filters capture some of the smallest particles of dirt, debris, and even some bacteria, keeping them from being pushed back into the air, and potentially stopping the spread of germs.
HR already does a lot when it comes to company culture—they set the tone for workplace expectations for things like breaks, attire, and chain of command.
They also work to develop employee benefit programs that meet a company's values and are a knowledgeable source when anyone has questions about any of these things.
Not only that but should an employee experience a hardship, HR often provides information from the business side to help the employee navigate the problem.
“They not only lend their expertise and experience to help deal with whatever the issue is, but they can also be real advocates and allies during a difficult situation.”
The point being, that HR is often aware of what employees are going through and has a better idea of what is happening with company culture.
It is important then, to include them in decisions that impact the company culture including decisions concerning building well-being.
Their input will be necessary, as making employees aware of increased cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting can help create a more positive atmosphere.
Increasing the connection between employees and cleaning processes, protocols, and cleaning teams can help build company culture by not only alleviating stress due to worry about getting sick but also by having the right cleaning team on site.
Including HR in strategic planning can have a positive impact on the future of a business.
According to ISS Facility Services:
“HR provides support for the changed workplace through people analytics. With access to critical data on each employee, HR can provide organizations with intelligence about employees’ experience and level of engagement to recommend effective responses.”
HR teams bring with them the necessary knowledge related to creating positions, adding employees, how big the pool of qualified candidates may be, realistic timelines for hiring and onboarding, and so much more.
By including HR in strategic planning, a business will have a better overall idea of the capital it will take to grow the company, a more proper timeline, and specifically what employees are looking for in a company.
“HR improves the company's bottom line with its knowledge of how human capital affects organizational success,” according to Small Business Chronicle.
After all, gaining qualified, experienced talent requires most companies to consider what a future employee wants out of a job and how to make the relationship work. With safety and health at the forefront of conversations these days, keeping your HR team involved in all aspects could create profound business improvements.
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