Employers in Canada are actively planning return-to-work strategies following COVID-19
Aon survey reports that employers mark employee safety as their top priority
TORONTO (May 14, 2020 ) – A new pulse survey from Aon plc (NYSE: AON), a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement, and health solutions, shows how Canadian companies are now starting to plan their return-to-work strategies based on employee safety, including how they will follow government guidelines to help them to ensure a safe workplace.
Aon conducted the survey, “Setting the Stage for a Return to Work and the New Normal,” between April 28 and May 1 2020, and a total of 1,970 organizations around the world responded, with 509 responses applicable to the Canadian region.
“Although the humanitarian and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to climb, many organizations are beginning to shift their focus from crisis management and business continuity to planning a safe return to work, amidst a new normal for business operations once stay-at-home regulations begin to relax,” said Rejean Tremblay Chief Commercial Officer, Aon (Canada). “This survey shows that Canadian organizations are taking proactive steps to improve their workplace and ease the return to the office.”
Safety at the top of the Employee Value Proposition
Many businesses are still grappling with operational challenges brought on by the COVID-19 economy. The vast majority of companies in Canada have put their employees’ health first within their Employee Value Proposition (EVP), with a large focus on employee safety (92%). To add, 84% of companies have highly prioritized employee communications and total wellbeing. More than two-thirds (71%) of companies have put an increased emphasis on work/life balance.
Among the type of communications employers send to employees, the survey highlights the following:
- 78% of companies are providing new health and safety protocols or process
- 73% of companies are sending numerous messages from senior leadership
- 40% of companies are informing employees about the organization’s financial health
- 36% of companies are highlighting wellbeing resources and tools
Return to work strategies
The focus of this survey remained on the various return-to-work strategies that employers in Canada intend enact as soon as next month. Out of the gate, companies have expressed that they are looking to government authorities to assist them in developing these safe return-to-work strategies. Further to this, companies in Canada will largely follow government health agency and local government guidelines on how to create safe workplaces overall.
In Canada, three strategies are at the forefront of safely bringing employees back to work:
- 93% of employers will favour a government-based approach
- 82% of employers will stagger by role prioritization
- 71% of employers will rather stagger by geography or location
Upon employees’ return to the workplace, all Canadian organizations surveyed have reported that they will implement temperature check sites at work, which will be hosted by trained staff, thermal cameras, or on a self-reporting basis. Most companies will request that their employees complete a health assessment survey upon their return.
Only 41% of Canadian organizations plan to implement a formal COVID-19 assessment program (i.e. testing) for their workforce, while 52% have put such a program under consideration. For organizations conducting testing for employees, one third will enlist an on-site designated test provider (40% are considering this), while 25% of companies would prefer to engage an off-site designated test provider (50% are considering this).
Three in five companies (60%) plan to provide employees with personal protective equipment when they return to work, while 32% of respondents are seriously considering it. However, employers have indicated that they will provide and/or facilitate hand sanitizer stations, cleaning supplies for individual work spaces, gloves, masks, and/or face shields for their employees on-site. A near total of employers (92%) will close access to common areas and 97% are likely to reconfigure their office layout to make for a safer environment.
When asked how the experience of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic might change future workforce strategies, 37% of companies surveyed acknowledged a need to review their operations, adding that they are considering a long-term restructuring of their operations and workforce. To add, 59% of companies aim to encourage more employees to work virtually on a permanent basis and 65% of companies stated that they have recently implemented (or are actively considering) creating a separate taskforce to support their HR function in focusing on managing immediate issues (e.g. crisis management or business continuity planning).
About the survey
Aon conducted the survey, “Setting the Stage for a Return to Work and the New Normal,” between April 28 and May 1 2020. A total of 1,970 organizations around the world responded, with 509 responses applicable to the Canadian region. The complete study results are available here.