As you undoubtedly know, May 19th marked the start of Phase 2 of BC’s Restart Plan. This plan indicates that many non-essential workplaces (including office-based worksites, retail, recreation, restaurants, salons, etc.) can re-open with specific health and safety protocol in place. It also allows for cautiously expanding our social ‘bubbles’ and having social gatherings with up to six people.

While this has been met with relief, where finances are concerned, and excitement, where social circles and a sense of ‘normality’ are concerned, it has also been met with renewed uncertainty.

Though the very vast majority of us weren’t exactly happy/comfortable with the lockdown measures previously in place, we were beginning to adapt to our new temporary normal. We were clear where we could and couldn’t go, who we could go with, and how close we could get to people. Outside of our immediate families/households, we knew that if we went to a park (for example), we would have to ensure appropriate physical distancing with others, no matter how well we knew them.

But now, as many of us begin to cautiously expand our ‘bubbles’, and visit increasingly more public places (cafes, restaurants, etc.), those parameters are again less clear – and there seems to be another emerging shift into fear and uncertainty. At Jouta, we’ve been discussing some of these questions, what we’re thinking/worrying/unsure about, or seeing around us – knowing that they have a cascading effect on the workplace. Some of these include:

  • What exactly constitutes my bubble? Is it different for someone who lives/works alone versus a family/household of 4 who goes into the workplace?
  • Is everyone interpreting the concept of bubbles in the same way?
  • As I expand my bubble, how do I know how cautious (or not) people are being with others? Are the people we felt ‘safe’ with before May 19th potentially higher risk now that they’ve possibly been in contact with more people?
  • Should I be wearing a mask? When and where do I wear a mask now?
  • Is everyone diligent with their hygiene?
  • Should I feel unsafe if restaurants aren’t asking for my contact information for contact tracing?

As conscientious individuals who all work from home, live alone or with only one or two family members, and who are making well-thought-out choices, these are just a few of the things we’re thinking about as easing of restrictions begins to occur. As employees begin to go back into the workplace, even with solid protocol, there’s no doubt these questions/concerns (and more) are on the minds of many. We know that, even without things opening up, some employees are afraid to go back to work. As we’ve explored in past posts, many have personal circumstances (e.g. caring for vulnerable individuals) that objectively legitimize these fears. For others, especially in such an uncertain time, we need to be very careful about judging whether a fear is legitimate or not.

As your employees return to the workplace, once you have appropriate protocol in place, of course, it’s likely you’ll see varying behaviours. Some will wear masks, some won’t. While all should be expected to comply with your protocol, some will be more diligent than others. And some will take it to another level. So long as your protocol is being followed, employees are able to do their jobs/be productive, and everyone is respectful of individual choices, these differences are acceptable. It may, however, be necessary to highlight your respectful workplace practices. Just as ‘jokes’ about gender or ethnicity are unacceptable, so too is shaming or ‘joking’ about individual choices around safety.

We know that Dr. Henry has put a lot of solid faith in the people in of BC to use their best judgement, and that we’ve done well as a province – but we’re still in uncertain territory. We’re still navigating the impact of this pandemic on a day to day basis. We continue to urge you to engage your employees, discuss the questions above and continue the dialogue (be that one-to-one, or within teams). As we’ve said before, the only way through this is together.