Expert offers advice as employees head back to work amid pandemic

The report found the U.S. economy could grow by $25 billion if just one percent more of people...
The report found the U.S. economy could grow by $25 billion if just one percent more of people with disabilities joined the workforce.(Source: Gray News)
Updated: May. 11, 2020 at 10:25 AM EDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - As Alabama enters this new phase of the safer at home order, more and more people will be called back to work. While the call is welcome for many, there are many more who may not feel like things are safe enough to return.

Workplace Culture Expert Cheri Perry believes bringing people back to work will be a balancing act for employers. Whether that is giving employees the option of coming back to the office or continuing to work from home.

“You’ve got to open up a good line of communication right now with all of your staff members and find out what are your concerns, what are your cares and considerations, as we migrate back to whatever the new normal is," Perry said.

Perry said we should understand that most workplaces are not going back to the way it was before the pandemic.

“As we get ourselves into a scenario where people begin to get back into the workplace, business owners and leaders really have to ask themselves this question: how am I making sure that my staff feels safe, they feel comfortable, and they feel listened to,” Perry said. “The new Coronavirus Act that was passed allows for some additional reasons why people do not have to come back.”

For example, Perry said if someone is immuno-compromised and they have a legitimate realistic reason to think they may be in danger by coming in to work, there’s some consideration that has to be taken there.

“If there’s a scenario where they’ve got kids at home and they don’t have anyone to take care of their children, then there’s some real reasons why those people should be given some additional options as far as coming to work or not," Perry said.

If you’re in a position where your position cannot be done remotely, well that’s a problem Perry added. For those who can work from home, and enjoy it, Perry recommends speaking up about it.

“If you are working from home and you love it, and your boss says ‘guess what come on back’, a lot of people are going to say ok and they’re going to go on back and now they’re going to be left with the resentment ‘I really liked working from home. This sucks’. That’s one option. The second option is ‘I got your call, I know you said come back, but I am loving this working from home thing. Can we talk? Can we have a schedule adjustment where maybe I get to work from home three days a week and be in the office two days a week?’ Ask for what you want. That’s the beauty of being an American. Craft your job the way you want it. You do not have to be the owner of a company to get what you want out of your work experience,” Perry explained.

Not every job can be performed remotely, and many have asked about employees' rights as they return to work in the midst of this pandemic.

“Well now you’re asking a business owner, so let me tell you what kind of rights I think employees have,” Perry said. “They have the right to work and conditions that they want to work in. If you’re not happy with what’s happening in your workplace environment, people should take personal responsibility."

Perry suggests you talk to the business owner.

"Say I’m concerned about this and address it like a personally responsible adult. The second is you can always vote with getting a different job. I know that sounds horrible, but there are a lot of vacancies right now, It’s a little bit of a one side of this whole COVID-19 scenario. We are not chained to a workplace environment. It doesn’t matter what job you’re in, it does not matter what your position is, if you do not like the way things are going at your job, this is before, during, after COVID, do something about it."

It’s also good to educate yourself, Perry added.

"Ask for what you want. Be specific, be clear, be respectful, but just remember you’re not trapped.”

According to Perry, businesses do have a responsibility to maintain a safe work area, but employees have to carry just as much of that responsibility as well.

“Didn’t we learn everything we needed to know in kindergarten? Every workplace, even pre-COVID, people let’s wash our hands, let’s make sure that when we eat our lunch we wash our hands and clean up our workspace,” said Perry. “It’s important to be talking to the people in your industry and finding out ‘hey, what are people in my industry doing?’ So I’m in an office environment, for example. So we have upped the number of times that our workplace is being cleaned and sanitized. we’ve spread out the working environment so that people are as far apart as they can be because they do have to be in the office.

Perry said they have also limited the number of people that are allowed in the common areas, like the workroom, the lunchroom, and the kitchen.

"We’ve adjusted lunch hours and so on to make sure that we have as little interaction as possible without getting crazy about it.”

Find more of Cheri Perry’s advice for workplace culture on her website.

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