Employer Mask Mandates: What if there is backlash?
The CDC has put out new mandates that in COVID-19 hotspots even vaccinated people should wear masks indoors. This will place some employers in a tricky situation especially if mask mandates have been relaxed or even dropped. Employers are certainly within their rights to require employees to wear masks. What is the best tool you have in your employer toolbox? Communication. Make sure you are effectively communicating to all staff why you are doing this and be certain to provide the exact requirements. For instance in a break room, you may allow employees to remove their masks to eat or drink but require them to be at least six feet away from someone else. Let staff know when the policy will be reviewed again and any disciplinary action that may be taken if they don't follow your policy. Generally, you should incorporate the 5 W's: who, what, when, where and why.
This pandemic seems like it is never ending and many employees are feeling fatigue over the mandates, guidelines, and constant changes. This may cause them to not want to wear a mask. They may decide they don't need to since they are vaccinated. As an employer, you must be firm and make sure every employee follows your policy. Make sure leadership is modeling the behavior. You can't expect hourly employees to follow a mask mandate if the CEO doesn't.
Employees are going to better respond to these policies if you are explaining the reasons for implementation. Keep your employees engaged and allow them to give feedback during the process. If you do implement a mask mandate, the only reason for someone not to follow it should be due to a documented disability and you should always work with your human capital team on those. We are definitely in some unprecedented times with COVID-19. I know I'm ready for us to move forward and take the masks off. I hope that day comes soon! Stay safe.