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How to Manage COVID-19-Related Employee Complaints

During the pandemic, be flexible when dealing with employees’ safety and concerns

Posted by Ann Snook on December 10th, 2020

Handling employee complaints can be tough in the best of times. When you’re trying to stay afloat during a global pandemic, you might want to put complaints on the back burner while you deal with more pressing business matters.


COVID-19-related employee complaints let you know how your staff is feeling about working during the pandemic. They also help you identify opportunities to improve the employee experience.


Working during a pandemic is scary; give your employees peace of mind.

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to keep your employees safe at work. When returning to work during COVID-19, this means taking extra safety precautions and nourishing their mental wellness, too. Download our free checklist to make sure you’re taking all the necessary steps.

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Potential COVID-19-Related Employee Complaints


Whether they’re working remotely or in the office, during COVID-19 employees face unique challenges that could lead to complaints. Here are the top three complaint categories employers should prepare for.


Health and Safety Issues


COVID-19 has drastically changed how workplaces look and operate. Social distancing, masks, extra cleaning and other protocols keep employees safe, but can also cause anxiety or other hardships.

First, employees may have physical or mental ailments that make following these best practices difficult. For instance, an employee with a lung illness might not be able to wear a mask all day. Someone who’s allergic to strong cleaning solutions might have a bad reaction if they enter the office. Employees might submit a request or complaint asking you to accommodate them and their conditions.

On the other hand, employees might not feel safe in the workplace. If they feel that you haven’t implemented proper safety measures or aren’t following local rules, they’ll likely voice their concerns to HR.

Employees who believe that their workplace is dangerous to their health might file a complaint with OSHA. OSHA will then send an inspector to determine if your office really is hazardous to your employees.


With all the new health and safety measures in place in the office, it’s easy to forget best practices once in awhile. Download our free COVID-19 office safety poster and hang it in common areas to give employees a reminder.


Balancing Work and Personal Priorities


If your employees are working from home during COVID-19, they might be struggling to balance their personal and professional lives.

Without a commute to separate their work hours from free time, employees could find it hard to log off. They might also feel pandemic-related anxiety or depression and find it hard to focus on work.

If they have kids at home who need care and/or help with schoolwork, employees might not be able to dedicate a full eight-hour chunk of the day to work tasks.

Employees in these scenarios need flexibility and understanding from their employers. If they don’t feel they’re being heard, they could file a complaint.


Remote Work Concerns


While many companies offered remote work to their employees some of the time before the pandemic, 62 per cent of Americans worked from home during the peak of the pandemic.

The sudden switch to remote work caught both employers and employees unprepared. Without time to set up a proper virtual office, some organizations struggled to adapt.

One of the biggest remote work concerns for many employees is their home office set-up. Their living space might be too small to work comfortably, especially if they share a home with a working partner or children. In addition, they might not have all the equipment they need, such as a desk and chair, extra monitors, printer or scanner.

Employees working in a less-than-desirable environment could suffer physical ailments, as well as frustration that leads to more serious mental health problems.

Similarly, employees working remotely due to COVID-19 might complain about poor communication. Not being in the office can feel isolating. If employees can’t connect with their manager or coworkers, they might feel out of the loop, leading to confusion, self-doubt and lack of motivation.

Finally, employees might not want to take on the extra costs that could come with remote work. For example, their phone, internet or electricity bills could increase due to working and living at home. They now also have to purchase the office supplies, coffee and other items that they’d use in a typical day at the office.


RELATED: Can I Force Employees to Return to the Office in a Pandemic?


How to Manage Employee Complaints


Receiving a COVID-19-related complaint from an employee can be a good thing for your company. It provides you with an opportunity to address an issue you may not have otherwise known about. You may be able to prevent other employees from experiencing the same problem.


Treat Complaints with Kindness


Many people feel extra anxious and on edge right now. What seems like a minor inconvenience to one person might be a major problem to another. Approach every complaint with understanding, kindness and sensitivity. Making employees feel that you hear and care about their concerns will go a long way towards a peaceful and safe workplace.


Try to Accommodate Employees


Next, try to accommodate employees whenever you can. Legally, you have to accommodate someone with a physical or mental disability that would be exacerbated by working normally during COVID-19. Depending on your state or city, employees with chronic illnesses, pregnant employees and/or seniors may also have the right to accommodations.

Working parents and caregivers might ask for leave and other accommodations, too. While not every situation is covered, the Families First Coroanvirus Response Act and some state and local laws require employers to provide extra leave to employees who need time off to care for children whose schools are closed or family members who’ve contracted the virus.

However, if you can, don’t just accommodate those you’re required to. Work with the employee to find a solution that works for everyone. If it doesn’t negatively impact their productivity or put their coworkers in danger, the accommodation should benefit you both.


Be Proactive


Finally, try to prevent COVID-19-related employee complaints before they start. Encourage managers to gauge their team’s feelings about working during the pandemic. How are they doing mentally? Do they have everything they need to do their job efficiently? How is their work/life balance?

In addition, send out a company-wide survey asking employees how well you’re addressing their needs during the pandemic. Analyze their concerns and suggestions to see what you can do to make your workplace safer and more comfortable.

Share resources with all employees that can help them adjust to “the new normal.” Include:

  • Mental health resources
  • Remote work tips: efficiency, work/life balance
  • Best practices for workplace health/safety during COVID-19
  • Where and how to file complaints internally


RELATED: 23 Resources to Help Employers Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic


The key to managing employee complaints related to COVID-19 is understanding. Everyone is trying to adapt and change while maintaining as normal a life as possible. Treat your employees with compassion and they should return the favour.

Ann Snook
Ann Snook

Marketing Writer

Ann is a marketing writer at i-Sight Software. She writes about issues related to investigations of fraud, employee misconduct, corporate security, Title IX, ethics & compliance and more.

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