The hybrid workplace, which started out as an alternative working arrangement because of the pandemic, is shaping the future of work in the Philippines. In light of this transition, companies are gearing up to adjust their policies and guidelines to make it work.
Like any work setup, the hybrid workplace comes with a new wave of challenges related to employee health and safety. And it serves as a reminder for businesses to put more thought into creating long-term measures that ensure employee safety while working from home.
To help you get started, here’s what you need to know about occupational health and safety.
What is Occupational Health and Safety?
The term “occupational health and safety” describes the set of guidelines, measures, and standards designed to protect workers from injuries, illnesses, or death. By complying with these measures, companies can:
- Design safer workspaces (for both on-site and remote employees)
- Provide better job safety instructions
- Implement more stringent health and safety programs
- Establish workplace protocols in case an emergency happens
What are the Health & Safety Challenges Faced by Hybrid Workplaces?
When transitioning to a hybrid workplace, companies need to pay attention to these health and safety risks:
Mental Health & Well-Being
According to the Department of Health, at least 3.6 million Filipinos struggle with mental health disorders. The decline in mental health also extends to the workplace, as seen in the increasing rates of burnout and stress among employees.
Below we’ve listed some of the factors that contribute to mental health issues at work:
- Overtime work
- Feelings of isolation due to a lack of face-to-face interactions
- A lack of solid and meaningful support systems in the workplace
- COVID-related anxiety
If you lack the resources to understand the current state of mental health among your employees, you can tap into Sprout’s Wellness Program. Choose from our calendar of activities designed for employee wellness, such as online meditation and yoga, wellness webinars, and more.
Physical Hazards in Remote Workspaces
Remote work, just like on-site work, has its own set of challenges that could affect an employee’s physical health and safety. Some examples include:
- Trips and falls due to a cluttered work environment
- Injuries due to dangerous, faulty, or incorrect use of work-related equipment
- Potential fire hazards caused by electrical items (e.g., computers, mobile devices, printers)
Physical offices are designed to be conducive for comfort and productivity. However, the same cannot be said for most work from home (WFH) setups.
Poor ergonomics in a remote workspace can lead to health problems such as:
- Poor posture from sitting too long
- Eye strain from prolonged exposure to computer screens
- Back, shoulder, and neck pain
- Other musculoskeletal ailments
WFH setups have increased the risk of cyberattacks due to unsecure devices and internet connections. Kaspersky reports that nearly five million attacks were detected on work desktops between January to June 2021 alone.
These attacks are detrimental to business operations. According to a Cisco report, small and medium-sized enterprises that suffered from cyberattacks in the past 12 months have garnered losses worth 25 to 50 million pesos.
Why is Occupational Health and Safety Important?
Occupational health and safety helps establish decent working conditions for WFH and hybrid employees. Here are the top reasons why you should make it a priority.
- Reduces Accidents & Injuries
In 2017, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported over 101,000 cases of occupational diseases in the workplace, and these numbers have likely increased since the pandemic. One study reports a 65 percent increase in ergonomic and psychosocial risks to WFH employees.
A strong occupational health and safety program can help you deal with these risks. Identifying the risks through a data-driven approach makes it easier to address safety problems and reduce the risk of work-related hazards.
- Boosts Employee Efficiency & Productivity
Studies show that employee health and safety are key elements in achieving efficiency and productivity. And this data proves that employees in good health tend to be more productive and efficient.
Establishing proper occupational health and safety measures can help safeguard an employee’s well-being and encourage them to work better. In fact, these employees are less likely to miss work or underperform because of any underlying conditions or illnesses.
- Improves Employee Relations & Boosts Satisfaction
Aside from productivity, employee happiness and well-being are linked to an employee’s working conditions. Consider how 38 percent of employees feel anxious while 20 percent face difficulty coping with work-related happenings based on our Sprout Pulse report about Mental Health in the Workplace.
If the data teaches us anything, it’s that companies need to take more proactive steps to ensure worker safety. After all, when employees feel like they’re cared for, it can help make work less stressful. That’s why a safe working environment helps strengthen employee relations and improve job satisfaction.
- Cuts Back on Costs
The saying “prevention is better than an ounce of cure” rings true for occupational health and safety. With effective health and safety measures in place, you can significantly reduce employee risk-related costs.
Consider how mental health issues can result in a productivity loss (worth seven million pesos). You could easily keep the risk at bay with well-rounded employee wellness programs, however. Apart from reducing costs, maintaining a safe hybrid workplace can help lower turnover and other related costs.
Best Practices on Occupational Health & Safety Procedures
Implementing effective occupational health and safety measures are the key to mitigating the previously mentioned challenges in WFH and hybrid workplaces.
Check out some of these best practices to help you maintain occupational health and safety:
- Enforce safety and hygiene practices. Remind your employees to constantly practice safety and hygiene by wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing.
- Conduct ergonomic assessments. Check if your employee’s workstations are conducive to productivity and if it requires any additional equipment.
- Provide the necessary equipment. Consider rolling out an equipment subsidy program for employees that will help shoulder a fraction of the cost for computers, chairs, desks, keyboards, and other work-related equipment.
- Hold regular check-ins. Holding frequent one-on-ones allows managers to monitor employee well-being and address work-related problems.
- Keep all lines of communication open. Maximize the use of email and group chats so employees can easily reach you for questions or in cases of emergencies.
- Conduct regular information security training. Ensure information security by frequently updating anti-virus software, running regular virus or malware scans, and ensuring compliance with company security guidelines on handling sensitive info.
- Ensure compliance with laws and regulations. For reference, you can check the Occupational Health and Safety laws and DOLE Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangements.
- Stay updated on health and safety news. You can share the latest quarantine guidelines from the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force via chat or email.
Establish Effective Health & Safety Measures in Your Hybrid Workplace
In light of the pandemic, companies need to be clear in expressing their commitment to employee safety. By implementing effective health and safety standards, you can better protect your team members from any health or COVID-related risks.
To learn more about how Sprout can help you maintain health and safety in your hybrid workplace, check out our comprehensive product suite or visit our blog page.