It’s now that special time of year before the festive season really gets underway: projects to be finished, payments to be collected and the work Christmas party to make it through! Another topic that comes into focus is returning safely back to work in the New Year. What can we do in early January to ensure we are still taking care of our employees?
For some companies, it is a well-established practice to run a Health & Safety briefing, often called a “Back to Work Session”. The premise is simple – take the time to tune people back into being at work. Remind them of the key things that they need to do to look after both their own Health & Safety and those around them. At the same time, you can show people what is in the H&S plan for the year ahead, including new projects and updates to current activity. This is an important opportunity to share knowledge, seek feedback and gain commitment that everyone will play their part.
These Back to Work sessions come in all shapes and sizes, you can try different types of sessions to see what impact they have. At the simplest level, it may be a briefing for 30 minutes in the break room, but it may grow to full day business briefing sessions with hundreds of people attending.
Whichever method is chosen, these points are crucial for success:
Make them inspiring! The main point is to wake us from our post-Christmas over-consumption lethargy! Staring at slides alone will have limited value.
A proper venue! You want people to be able to see and hear crucial information. That will not happen if people don’t have a seat or are rammed into a tiny meeting venue.
Audience participation! You really need your employees and supply chain, if appropriate, to actively buy into the subject. What does it mean to them?
Gain emotional commitment! Have the view that you need to stir up some emotions (good or bad!). The session needs to be memorable and a reminder as to what we are doing and why.
So what are the best topics to cover? In my experience, the following have a big impact:
Share success. What worked really well last year? Consider recognising teams or individuals for their contributions. Single them out, make it positively memorable for them.
Communicate next steps succinctly. Keep the plan for next year clear and simple. Must be led by the Operations team – not the H&S person.
Make it personal. Personal stories from serious incidents. If you have been through a tragedy at work, at some point it may be possible to share that, say as a video, and sensitise a big audience to the impact of what the incident meant to those closest to it.
One last important question, does it work? If you view the ‘Back to Work’ session as something to be done quickly in the year end rush then it will remain a ‘transactional’ piece of H&S; a standalone activity with very limited ongoing value. If you view it as a great opportunity, plan well and retain a clear positive view as to “why” you are doing it, it will be much more transformational.
Note that these Back to Work sessions can be quickly adapted to become a regular feature of your business’s proactive approach to H&S. Additional scaled-down versions can be very impactful to a team or business group at any time of the year.
A final small piece of advice in this season of giving. If you say it is a back to work session for all then make sure it is for all! Night and weekend shift workers that receive their back to work sessions during late February is, at best, highly ineffective and sends a very clear message about what & who we really have value for.
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