Enhancing the Workplace Experience During COVID-19
From time to time, I post blogs written by others. Today’s blog was written by Jamie Fry.
Adhering strictly to ethical obligations is essential to curbing the spread of Coronavirus. This would include complying with safety guidelines, even when it does not favor business or personal freedom. But considering that we owe each other the duty of care during these times, it becomes even more important to keep to these guidelines in crowded places such as the workplace. You do not want your entire team coming down with the virus neither do you want them spreading it to others.
Thus, with safe distance, spacing or even remotely working from home, ethics in the time of Coronavirus is observed. With working safely from home, employees also get to stay home to take care of their kids and walk them through the virtual learning processes. This would mean more professional and personal demands of our time than ever before. During these circumstances, we ought to be a reminder of the COVID ethics rules. The five recommendations below will help avoid ethics-related challenges as we all work to advance the mission of flattening the curve.
- Ethical Expectation and Workplace Flexibility
While the government has the primary responsibility to promote and protect the health of its citizens, employers also have an important role to play in managing the health and economic impact caused by Coronavirus. This means that there are ethical actions that need to be taken into consideration in the workplace to ensure that employees are protected. We all understand that businesses are set up to make a profit, but the current global crisis calls for organizations to place the wellbeing of people over profit. A perfect example is how the 3D Printing Community is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, by moving from commercialization to people and safety-oriented services.
Some organizations have the workspace to conveniently comply with safe distancing guidelines. So, workspaces must be kept in safe and healthy working conditions. There should be a provision for proper protective equipment and training to mitigate exposure to COVID-19, particularly for workers not considered as first responders. E.g., grocery clerks, warehouse, sanitation, and transportation workers.
Alternatively, remote working can also be taken into consideration. This will mean that staff can have flexible and convent working hours needed in these times that also require their personal attention. For example, employees who need to stay home to take care of kids who are out of school and family members who may be sick can do so. Also, the need to commute to work curtails the risk of possible exposure to the virus and saves costs. Generally, the workplace is less crowded and safety guidelines are easily complied with.
- Freedom and Individual Responsibilities
Freedom of movement during the pandemic has been largely curtailed. While an individual might feel agitated by this, it is important to note that one person’s actions or inactions can lead to a spread of the virus. Therefore, we all have a collective and ethical responsibility to comply with safety guidelines, so we do not put ourselves and others at risk during this COVID-19 period. Such health, safety, and wellbeing expectations include:
- Physical and social distancing
- Carrying out basic hygiene principles
- The use of appropriate facial coverings like face masks or shields when in public places and likewise proper disposal
- Volunteering to get tested for covid-19 when you notice symptoms or are in contact with affected persons
- Adherence to quarantine or self-isolation requirements when indicated or necessary.
- Substituted Means of Doing Business
As the coronavirus pandemic lingers, the threat to small businesses keeps increasing. Despite Congress approving a historic $700 billion support, these small companies still struggle to stay afloat. In line with lockdown guidelines, these businesses have been forced to either shut down fully or cut back on operating hours.
Thus, statistics show that 7.5 million small businesses are at risk of closing their doors permanently.
For example, if you run a restaurant, besides rent, you probably have the added cost of all your food going bad and other expenses. Overhead and personnel cost becomes way more than your turnover. You are faced with either complying with the pandemic guidelines of working limited hours and cutting dine ins or going against guidelines and putting yourself and others at risk. While it might seem like the government is stifling these businesses, health and safety come first.
The ethical focus of these businesses should be protecting employees, understanding the risks to their business, and managing consumer interactions to contain the spread of COVID-19. Therefore, small businesses should find alternative and safer ways to stay open. For instance, retailers can leverage eCommerce services, contactless deliveries, and diversification of business.
- Maintaining Honesty and Transparency
These are uncertain times for both employers and employees. While it might be difficult to be honest and transparent about the true situation of things such as finances, it is ethical and most appreciated. During this time, employers may want to hide their financial conditions due to the fear of because employees jumping ship. In the long run, businesses should be transparent with employees as it brings a sense of togetherness. Furthermore, research has shown that transparency and honesty in a workplace inspire employees' teamwork, creativity, and improves a sense of psychological safety.
- Separating Official Time and Resources from Personal Time and Resources
It is easy to blur the lines between personal and professional aspect during the pandemic. So, another ethical principle to remember in the time of Coronavirus is the use of official time for official purposes. It means that while working remotely, it does not mean that employees are free to take up other employment.
As an employee, you cannot engage in personal activities like running a business, managing a stock portfolio, or other business activities. Another basic ethical principle is that employer recourses such as computers and communication tools in the employee’s possession while working remotely should not be used for personal purposes. If you plan on taking up a side freelance job with a writing service review site like Writing Judge, it is best to inform your employer. On the flip side, employers should also respect the personal time of the employee. Working remotely does not mean the employee is available at all hours.
While it might appear detrimental to a business or impede on personal freedom, ethical decisions are always important. More so when facing a global public health crisis such as COVID-19, ethical considerations provide important guidelines to ensure workplace safety and flexibility, transparency, individual responsibility, and effective decision-making.
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In the spirit of the holiday season, I am giving away signed copies of my book to the first ten people who contact me at: [email protected] and provide a mailing address. May your 2021 be better than 2020. Let's face it, it can't be worse!
Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on December 21, 2020. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.