Alberta returned to Step 1 from Step 2 of its “Path Forward” out of the COVID-19 pandemic on April 6 due to concerning high numbers of cases of the disease, which has unfortunately prolonged the province’s economic recovery. There is no business operating as usual in Alberta right now. Retail services must only allow shoppers at 15% capacity and are encouraging curbside pickup and online orders. Restaurants and pubs are only able to host guests for outdoor patio dining. Gyms and fitness centres can only open for individual or household one-on-one fitness training and youth group physical activities. Health and wellness services are open by appointment only, with strict protocols in place, and performance activities remain highly restricted.
Perhaps most importantly for the average worker-bee, working from home remains mandatory unless the employer requires the employee’s physical presence to operate effectively.
All this brings us to the conundrum business owners are all facing right now. After more than a year of dealing with the pandemic, the workplace has changed dramatically, and it’s unlikely to go back to the way we all knew it. So how do employers support their people into returning to a workplace that is not the same as it used to be?
Bringing people back safely
All business owners are encouraged to know and understand the restrictions associated with their services. The Government of Alberta has provided comprehensive general and by sector guidance for business documents that are updated in accordance with the stage of COVID-19 response we are in. They have also created a workplace guide for business owners that offers tips on reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 between workers and to customers. COVID-19 will never go away completely (at least not for awhile), so business owners should remain cognizant of their responsibilities and endeavor to keep their employees as informed as possible.
Additional guidance can be found through the:
- Calgary Chamber of Commerce’s toolkit for re-opening and operating safely with COVID-19.
- Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ advice on COVID-19 health and safety for small businesses including prevention, sick employees and employee rights.
- The Government of Canada’s “Risk-informed decision-making guidelines for workplaces and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic”
Bringing people back happily
Since the vast majority of workers have been performing well from their makeshift home offices and are discovering the benefits of working from home, such as zero commute time and increased autonomy, business owners are going to have to adapt and change according to the wants and needs of their employees.
For most people, going back to the office full-time isn’t all that attractive. A BBC article titled, “Coronavirus: How the world of work may change forever,” cites a Future Forum research study of 4,700 knowledge workers. The results “found the majority never want to go back to the old way of working. Only 12% want to return to full-time office work, and 72% want a hybrid remote-office model moving forward.”
In addition to offering employees the option of a hybrid form of working – perhaps with three days spent in the office and two at home – employers also must ensure they have everything they need to succeed. Technology needs to be up to date and working, IT help should be made available, and employees should be trained on the protocols of video conferencing. Businesses also need to offer support for health and safety (such as how to not injure yourself while working from home), and comprehensive mental health supports should be in place.
Many businesses are going the extra mile to retain their most valuable assets – their employees – by also offering perks such as regular social activities (carried out in a safe manner), “wellness rooms” where employees may take a mental health break, and more flexible working hours, such as allowing people to start later or earlier if they like, or work longer hours in order to have a regular day off each week.
Assistance for businesses during the pandemic
Business owners have become well aware that one thing business interruption insurance doesn’t cover is pandemics. When Alberta went into lockdown due to COVID-19, tens of thousands of businesses locked their doors, and many have remained locked. Unfortunately, business interruption insurance does not provide coverage for loss of business or supply chain disruption due to situations such as a pandemic.
There is assistance available in other forms, however. COVID-19 supports are available through both the provincial and federal governments, and holders of business insurance policies should call their broker or provider to discover their options. Insurance providers are generally working on a case-by-case basis. If you feel you may be unable to pay your premiums due to the pandemic, providers have indicated they will work with clients by offering:
- Payment deferrals of up to four months
- No penalties for non-sufficient funds
- No cancellation of policies for non-payment
Trust Lane’s for all your business insurance needs
The expert brokers at Lane’s Insurance are trained in finding the very best coverage available for businesses to tailor to their needs. We are standing by to help you with all your business insurance coverage needs, including:
- Contract surety bonds and commercial surety bonds
- Contractors’ insurance
- Oil and gas insurance
- …and much more
As a brokerage, Lane’s Insurance works for you, not for the insurance providers. You’ll get impartial advice that protects your best interests, along with the most competitive rates on the market. Get started today by contacting a Lane’s Insurance representative.