HR Leads Business

Nov 15, 2021 | Chris Scandlen, PMPO, SA, HRCI’s Chief Information Officer

Designing a Hybrid Workplace Safety Philosophy

Companies recognize there is a transition to hybrid work underway. Unfortunately, they aren't taking steps to ensure it's a smooth one. Others may simply not have a strategy. A recent EY survey found that while 79% of companies intend to transition to a hybrid workplace, only 40% have communicated concrete plans to the workforce.

That lack of commitment could be putting your company and your workforce at risk. “We need to move past pandemic thinking and begin to think more long-term,” says Alan Tecktiel, SPHR, CHRO at the National Safety Council. Without hybrid work plans in place, you’ll have a hard time getting leadership’s commitment to extensive safety and security infrastructure for a hybrid workplace. And without that infrastructure, your hybrid workplace will be needlessly at risk.

Here are the essential components of a hybrid workplace safety philosophy to direct decision-making at your company.

Identify New Safety and Security Priorities

Workers may not be physically present in the office, but that doesn’t mean their physical wellness ceases to be a concern. Tecktiel says helping employees set up safe workspaces will be a safety and liability priority in a hybrid environment. Employers must find ergonomic solutions that provide employees options to meet their specific needs.

Psychological safety is also a concern: Remote employees face more isolation than ever before. Helping employees feel engaged and connected to remote team members is key to mental health in a hybrid working model, Tecktiel says.

Cybersecurity is critical to employee safety, too. “When team members work in the office, the network is sitting behind a firewall that forms a barrier between trusted and untrusted networks,” says Rene Sotolongo, aPHR MS CSIA system administrator at HRCI. “When they work from home, we don’t know what type of security they have on their home networks (if any at all), so we shift our priority to securing the device itself.”

This is an area it’s all too easy to overlook until disaster strikes. Remember, an employee data breach puts personal health and financial information, addresses and even social security numbers at risk.

Design a Strong Digital Fabric

As noted, two major concerns of remote work are keeping employees connected and protecting personal information. A robust digital infrastructure can greatly help with both. That’s why, in early 2020, HRCI made a strategic decision to move our data to a more secure cloud-based file-share system. We also transitioned to a more advanced and secure workspace chat and video conferencing platform.

Frank Primus, aPHR, HRCI’s information technology manager, says “you need to ensure your organization complies with industry standards and best practices. This is true whether your infrastructure is on-premise, cloud-based or a hybrid version of both.”

Communicate, Collaborate and Create

HR must prioritize communicating best practices for hybrid safety and security. A targeted communication and education plan ensures that employees live your hybrid workplace safety philosophy.

Hybrid work offers new opportunities for expanding collaboration experiences through new tools and technology, Primus says, regardless of physical location. As hybrid work policies evolve, HR will have more work to do to protect employee safety. Start by surveying the workforce so you can better appreciate employee work habits. In particular, note the challenges they may face. For instance, have they been able to establish ergonomic home office setups? And how frequently are they able to take breaks?

We need to understand how people work before we can create changes that drive results. With this knowledge, we can create a clear plan for the future, so your entire company can be confident you’re ready for the challenges to come.