According to a recently released global report by Employment Hero that examines the impact of Covid-19 on business owners and employees, the sentiment towards vaccinations varies from country to country.
While the overall survey found that 76 percent of employees globally want to get vaccinated, Malaysia, in particular had a higher positive employee sentiment towards vaccinations, with 81 percent of Malaysian employees looking to get vaccinated once vaccines are available.
This situation has also given rise to employers worldwide to come up with ways to encourage their employees to get vaccinated and these include methods and flexibility that allows them to do so.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to HR practices, and while there re some baselines that are applicable for most organisations, it really comes down to each organisation’s individual needs,” says Ben Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of Employment Hero.
There is always room for improvement, he says, when it comes to health policies in particular and this may have been a necessary wake up call for organisations to reevaluate their policies and determine how agile their HR departments are when it comes to making quick pivots.
In the meantime, Thompson says one way to cushion the workforce while managing and implementing new health policies is by maintaining a remote-work setup.
“Our survey found that the uncertainty of vaccine rollout timeline leaves many hesitant about returning to the office anytime soon, with only 29% of Malaysian employees expecting to return to the office in the next 6 months,” he says.
Hence, allowing employees to work from the comfort of their own home helps lower their stress levels as they do not have to go to the office and potentially expose themselves to the virus.
While there are rising number of companies recently making changes to their paid leave policies to include vaccination days, Thompson says might be a tricky subject for employers.
“We see this clearly when we look at discussions concerning parental leave which have been ongoing for years. Yet the policies that companies have in place vary greatly from organisation to organisation.
“With vaccinations, companies are faced with entirely new situation and there are many variables at play to determine if offering paid leave is an option. On top of that, many employers still have their hands full managing their teams remotely and adapting to continuously changing office restrictions,” Thompson highlights.
Having said that, he believes that it is important for employers to encourage vaccinations in any way they can.
Policies to Look Into
Thompson says companies can implement enhanced health policies to support their employees and give them peace-of-mind during the pandemic.
Employers can also consider offering emergency expansions of paid medical leave for workers to utilise if they are experiencing symptoms, seeking testing or treatment, vaccinations or recovering from Covid-19.
In addition, he encourages companies to offer family leave for workers to provide care to a loved on or family member who contracted Covid-19.
“With many employees juggling childcare while maintaining their jobs, paid family leave policies enable them to take time away from work to deal with family matters without the fear of losing their jobs or suffering a reduction in pay,” he says.
He further shares that companies can implement flexible working arrangements, such as, having the option to work remotely, implement flexible work schedules and enabling schedule-swaps for shift workers.
“Companies should also go the extra mile for their high-risk and pregnant employees. They should also look at policies to protect their employees by implementing enhanced safety measures to protect workers and mitigate the spread of the disease.”
An Issue Often Overlooked
Thompson also sheds light on the mental-health fallout of Covid-19 in the workforce as many continue to suffer in silence.
Employment Hero’s global report shows that 67 percent of employees said they worried about mental health stigma in the workplace and almost half of employees surveyed (47%) do not feel comfortable discussing mental health with superiors.
Additionally, 61 percent of employees and 56 percent of employers have been feeling stressed on some level over the past six months as Malaysia battles Covid-19.
“Add work-from-home to the mix and even more employees feel that is it harder to discuss mental health remotely.
“Employers have the opportunity to flip the script by making mental wellbeing a business priority. Providing employees with the right resources, supportive leadership, and taking a customised approach to mental health are great first steps,” Thompson says.
Normalising Mental Health
“Organisations with a strong focus on overall health are likely to be better equipped in handling the current pandemic and improving employee happiness. It is never too late for employers to change the way they support their employees,” he highlights,
Thompson is suggesting employers to make sure their employees are aware of the internal resources available that will allow them to identify and manage their stressors.
He is also urging companies to normalise mental health. “When it comes to creating change, start small. It could be as simple as encouraging staff to take mental health days off or talking about your own need to take one.”
Employment Hero also found that having a good work-life balance would greatly benefit people’s mental health and initiative such as encouraging employees to take paid leave and inserting an end-of-year expiry date on holidays are also effective approaches to ensure employees are taking adequate time off throughout the year.
“The bottom line is that employees’ mental health and wellbeing should be a top priority for Malaysian businesses. Not only will it increase employee productivity and happiness, but it will also reduce absenteeism, which will benefit the businesses’ bottom line,” concludes Thompson.