The world is changing more quickly than any of us ever expected it to. Like enterprises around the world, modern Chinese companies must provide for their customers and their employees as COVID-19 threatens to bring much of the global economy to an unanticipated standstill. At the same time, racial and gender-based discrimination has leapt to the forefront of the public consciousness thanks to #MeToo and the resurgence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The social, cultural, and operational shifts triggered by the convergence of these movements and the ongoing pandemic have created a business environment that is simply unprecedented.
Chinese companies are facing new responsibilities to ensure that workplaces function – or better yet, thrive – in the wake of the accelerating changes happening all over the globe. This requires establishing a “new normal” in the workplace that is consistent with social distancing and other important safety measures. However, these new workplace policies cannot be established by printouts hung up in the breakroom or repetition by company leaders alone. Rather, with the combination of expert training and methods that encourage supervisors to enforce new policies, Chinese companies can rebuild their workforces to meet the rising challenges of maintaining business-as-usual in a new normal.
Maintaining a Healthy Workplace During COVID-19
While legislatures are passing laws aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, companies are recognizing that creating a safe workplace entails more than simply meeting a basic legal responsibility. It means the company has the responsibility to protect employees from unnecessary risk of harm when working or traveling on your behalf. This includes policies that require personal protective equipment (“PPE”) and responsible social distancing. These preliminary actions are is simple enough and this may help enterprises avoid costly fines or penalties for non-compliance with local laws. However, creating a workforce that will thrive under the shifting conditions of the global marketplace requires a broader process of reform and training.
Chinese companies were among the first in the world to have to adapt to the changing workplace environments necessitated by COVID-19. They have accelerated the pace of digital transformation, using the technologies at their disposal to adapt to remote workplaces and continue to innovate despite disruption. They have developed novel business models and crafted new business processes and practices to meet them. And as much of the world struggles to support collaboration and ensure performance of distributed workforces, Chinese companies are creating new ways of meeting shifting customer needs. China’s companies have adapted quickly and effectively to the demands created by COVID-19, but this is only the beginning of the process for building and maintaining a healthy workplace under the new normal.
Chinese Companies Adapt to the New Normal
Workplaces in China that were once characterized by a focus on productivity are now shifting to placing worker health and safety as a top priority. This shift from product-centered operations to people-centered business activities is necessitating a change in traditional leadership structures. Specifically, it is placing more decision-making in the hands of human resource professionals who are charged with managing a company’s workforce in a manner that fits local context. This is placing a great burden on the shoulders of many workplace managers, many of whom could benefit from training and consultation from legal experts who understand how human resources, local compliance, and global standards converge.
Human resource professionals and other managers at Chinese companies must be brought up-to-date on the parameters of work as they evolve in response to growing health and safety concerns as well as the broader movement towards digitization of the economy. Many Chinese companies are taking this challenge as an opportunity, identifying creative ways to protect their business operations and their employees from the impacts of the ongoing pandemic. But the reinvention required in this process cannot merely come in the form of a directive from leadership. Rather, everyone in the workplace must be engaged in the process.
Workplace education and training opportunities help companies build a network of support for new policies that companies necessary for maintaining success under the constantly-changing circumstances we are encountering in the new normal. These initiatives will both encourage workers and equip them with the tools necessary to maintain a safe and compliant workplace. Education, training, and teambuilding initiatives that encourage stakeholder engagement engages everyone impacted by a certain operational objective or change in policies, which helps shifts take hold faster and more efficiently. Prioritizing workplace education and training also helps employees understand direction that the company is heading in by offering a roadmap for a more inclusive and resilient workplace.
Education and training that engages both company leaders and workers is an effective model for building a healthy workplace during the pandemic and beyond. After all, actions designed to improve workplace health and safety will help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus while also helping companies advance other reforms necessary to keep workers safe under the conditions of the new normal.
Companies Have a Legal Duty to Keep Workers Safe
In China and other economically-advanced countries, employers have duty of care to their employees. As a result, companies have a legal obligation to safeguard others from harm while they are at work, using company equipment or services, or engaged in company-sanctioned activities. Among other things, this requires companies to make every effort to:
- Ensure the safety of business travelers, both domestic and internationally;
- Create a work environment that safeguards employee health during the pandemic;
- Preparing business to weather workplace disruptions with minimal impacts;
- Minimizing or eliminating workplace harassment; and
- Other activities that may be necessary and appropriate to maintain a healthy workplace for all employees
All companies face a legal and moral obligation to keep people safe in the workplace, and failure in this regard carries tangible consequences. Building a workforce that accommodates the evolving workplace safety prerogatives under the new normal starts with showing employees that your company is proactively taking measures to keep them safe. In addition to protecting your employees, this will result in a more motivated, loyal, and productive workforce. As such, programs that help companies improve workplace health and safety are a valuable investment for any Chinese company seeking to keep up with a rapidly changing global marketplace.
Modern Tools for a Healthy Workplace
In addition to the evolving workplace standards demanded by COVID-19, industry standards, technology, and social standards within Chinese businesses are constantly shifting. In these circumstances, workplace education and training can help businesses achieve both day-to-day business and long-term goals.
Key education seminars that will aide in building a healthier workplace include not only worker health and safety training framed from the COVID-19 perspective, but also events that focus on diversity and anti-harassment measures. Harassment in workplace must also be addressed, as this is a serious issue that is evolving in response to expanding remote work policies. Harassment of any type – cyber or otherwise – negatively impacts employees and the organizations they work for. Effective anti-harassment training for workplaces to thrive under the new normal will address the definition of harassment in the remote workplace, explore various forms of harassment that workers may face, and the impact that these actions have. From there, trainers will help workers explore strategies for responding to harassing situations as well as measures for preventing harassment of any form in the workplace.
In today’s corporate environment, businesses need to balance their bottom lines with the growing need for workplace protection by investing in building a healthier and more educated workforce. Chinese companies may want to consider the current economic climate an opportunity to explore changing attitudes, skills, and strategies that can be useful in responding to demands of an evolving global society. These organizations can start by addressing the likely phases of the transition, common reactions your company may experience, and how to successfully adapt to evolving demands. All of these changes and more are covered in the workshops and training events we currently offer. If your company could benefit from building a workplace capable of thriving in the face of COVID-19 and other challenges created by the new normal, contact us today.
IPO PANG XINGPU, with headquarters in Shanghai China, we have been helping clients from all over the world with their legal matters since 1992. We are a group of dedicated attorneys and professionals with expertise and experience in a variety of legal disciplines. Clients come to us “When Being Right Matters®”.