Covid-19 Vaccines and Masks in the Workplace: Everything You Need to Know

We can all see eye to eye on one thing. The pandemic took all of us out off guard. We all had a fair share of experiences of anxiety and shock when our workplaces were shut down at the beginning of 2020. And some may have been happy assuming that they would be getting a short vacation from work. But in the end, it was a struggle. Among the many people who have struggled during the pandemic were HR leaders and managers. They had to work to ensure the smooth functioning of the workplace in what was a very unpredictable and uncertain time. And now, they face a new challenge. With things slowly coming back to normalcy and workplaces reopening, HR leaders are now confused regarding masks and vaccines in the workplace. In this blog, we break down everything you need to know on navigating masks and vaccines in the workplace.  

Conflicts that could arise:  

  • Over vaccinations  

Some employees may report other employees who fail or refuse to wear masks. Sometimes employees may refuse to wear masks claiming that they are already vaccinated.  

  • Over masks 

Misconceptions are very resistant to advises and truth. Many of us have hesitated to take the vaccine thinking that we could die in the next 10 years. Employees may hesitate or even refuse to get vaccinated in the first place. Vaccinated employees may assume unvaccinated employees as unsafe and this could lead to tensions and conflicts in the workplace.  

What can employers do when faced with these conflicts? 

  1. Make employees aware of their responsibility to the general public and their co-workers 

Make employees understand that wearing masks and taking vaccines is a part of one’s duty to society. Remind them that following these safety guidelines can help in protecting their loved ones and families.  

  1. Create guidelines and laws as the following:  
  • Vaccine Mandates 

Employers can make vaccination mandatory for those employees who come to work physically. However, certain exceptional groups should be considered keeping in mind the guidelines given by the health authorities.  

  • Proof of Vaccination  

Employers can ask for documentation or proof that shows that the employee is vaccinated.  

  • Mask mandates 

Employers can make masks mandatory, keeping in mind that not all of the employees are fully vaccinated. Require them to wear masks by explaining that one must take steps to protect unvaccinated and at-risk co-workers in the workplace. Always check the guidelines and instructions given by your city or country.  

  • Employer liability 

Employers can be held liable if an employee contracts Covid-19 in the workplace. Remember to check the liability laws in your state or country.  

  • Separate rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated people 

You could have different rules for different groups of employees which should be lawful as well. This can, however, create divisions and tensions in the workplace. Such policies may end up excluding certain people which is unlawful.  

How do you help your employees get on board with the new changes?  

  • Help employees understand why you are doing this. Educate them regarding the safety of taking vaccines, the effectiveness of wearing masks, etc. Inform them on what they should do in order to come back.  
  • Elevate “I” thinking to “we” thinking. Encourage employees to bond and sympathize with each other. Help them to get to know each other and establish strong relationships. Collective consciousness is what group psychology states! Get your employees on the same page.  
  • Promise extra incentives that would encourage employees to be safe. You may also provide health insurance and other benefits.  

Conclusion 

In order to navigate smoothly through masks and vaccines, try to understand the people and what are their reasons for saying ‘so and so’. Include them in the decision-making process since this concerns everyone in the company. There is no single correct answer for this complex situation. In the end, what you are trying to achieve is keeping your employees safe and protected.  

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Hanan Ashraf
A strong believer in the power that words have over people, Hanan works on producing content that is creative but at the same time graspable for readers. A content writer and digital marketing intern, she loves to write about automation, HR, performance management, and employee wellbeing.