How to reopen your workplace safely

How to reopen your workplace safely

How prepared are you?


This article was first published in the Canadian Defence Review Magazine in September 2020

When we asked Canadians in late July how they felt about returning to their physical place of work given just how contagious the COVID-19 virus is, more than half (54 per cent) plainly told us, they’re afraid.

According to the KPMG in Canada survey, their top three concerns were:

  • Their colleagues might come to work ill or be asymptomatic (77 per cent)
  • Sharing common spaces like meeting or lunch rooms (57 per cent)
  • Their workplace’s air ventilation and circulation systems (46 per cent)

Yet, impressively, four out of five (82 per cent) said they trusted that their employer will take the right steps to maintain all of necessary health and safety precautions. And, even more people - 84 per cent - said they’d be more loyal to their employee or willing to ‘give the extra effort’ because they know their company "cares" and is focused on keeping them safe.

Trust and confidence have never mattered more. And in the Aerospace and Defence (A&D) sector, with the continuous focus on quality and the heightened need for a robust and secure supply chain, these are more than buzzwords.

All employers – both in the public and private sectors - face a tremendous responsibility and legal obligations, not to mention reputational risks if they don’t protect their workers during the pandemic.

Can you live up to the trust that Canadians say they clearly have in their employers? Is your board confident in your return to the workplace governance framework? Are your stakeholders and investors confident? Are your managers down the line confident? How are you gauging morale? How effective are your internal and external lines of communications? Is your organization prepared to pivot quickly to changing circumstances? How are you evaluating your readiness?

In the A&D space, employees of many private sector companies and public sector defence and national security entities were considered essential throughout the pandemic. So, while many of these issues have been at the forefront for some months, with the gradual reopening of the economy, a greater number of workers will potentially be back in their workplace.

In the mid-March haste to lockdown, many companies established COVID-19 taskforces. But, it’s now time to re-evaluate its composition, governance structure, and risk considerations. Do your practices and policies reflect the new reality?

For example, for remote workers, have you considered updating online harassment policies? How are you managing their performance and productivity? And, for those returning to the workplace, whether to an office or a production line, how has management updated policies and practices? What if employees refuse to return to work?

While one size won’t fit all, there are best practices to help manage the process.

© 2022 KPMG LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership and a member firm of the KPMG global organization of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. All rights reserved.

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