As states begin to gradually relax stay-at-home orders, business leaders need to begin forming clear guidelines to reintroduce their employees to the workplace. Reopening too quickly or striving to return to the way things were before the Covid-19 pandemic could have detrimental impacts on your company and your team.
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all plan for businesses, Allen Smith, J.D., writes that “Employers need to define the new normal by creating or revising policies to address a range of critical workplace issues, including employee relations and benefits.” You can use this general transition guideline to begin forming the best possible plan for reopening your company.
Key Considerations for Reopening the Workplace
The coronavirus has changed some fundamental aspects of various workplace activities, and these precautions should remain in place for the foreseeable future. According to the CDC and global health organizations, employers must prepare for the following key areas before reopening:
- Health and safety. Employees and guests should feel reassured that they’re in a clean and safe environment at the workplace. Businesses can reinforce safety guidelines by providing PPE for workers, wellness information for employees, requiring people to wear masks, or taking other safety precautions.
- Clear communication. Maintaining relationships with stakeholders and employees should be one of the top priorities before easing workplace restrictions. Nobody should be surprised or caught off guard about business decisions.
- Working arrangements. As employees steadily return to the physical workplace, it’s also important to be mindful of those who may be at higher risk for contracting the virus or those who must remain at home to care for their children. If a worker can continue to accomplish all their tasks remotely, employers should continue to accommodate their choice to work from home.
Checklist for Business Leaders
If you don’t feel as if you have all the answers for your employees or customers right now, HR consultant DeDe Church stresses that you’re certainly not the only one feeling overwhelmed during this time. "Most employers don't have all the answers,” says Church. “But if they will be open and honest with their teams, they will be much more likely to transition smoothly and to avoid the employee concerns and complaints that are likely to arise as we all figure out this new normal."
As you set up the foundation for the “new normal,” refer back to this checklist to ensure that you’re doing all you can to prioritize safety while getting your business up and running once more:
- Stay updated. Read and review your state’s stay-at-home orders frequently and be quick to adapt to any relevant changes.
- Create a transition plan with your team. Work with your employees to develop a gradual plan to reintroduce essential workers back into the workplace. Make sure that everyone feels like their voice is heard when plans are in development, and be quick to communicate if any changes arise.
- Request employee health information. In order to keep your office safe, be sure to ask for the correct employee information to minimize the risks of someone returning to the workplace who has been exposed to the virus.
- Establish consistent screening procedures. Many businesses are requiring their employees to take their temperature before entering the workplace. However, you should also be sure to emphasize that if someone doesn’t feel well, they should not come to work in the first place.
- Be upfront about salaries and/or hours changing. Employees who were temporarily laid off or furloughed should be informed as soon as you know when they can reenter the workforce.
Additional Tips for Keeping Your Employees Safe
According to CBRE, “Reoccupying work environments for the long-term should be approached as a ‘reset’ of ongoing soft services to support the workplace environment.” This slow transition back to working onsite should emphasize the following safety tips and recommendations to help maintain social distancing practices and good personal hygiene:
- Arrange desks and furniture in a way that keeps people physically distant from one another. For instance, you may want to spread out the chairs in your waiting area or add space between employees’ desks.
- Consider creating assigned seating charts to track where each employee is located throughout their day. This will help reduce the chances of someone coming into contact with the virus, and if someone is tested positive for Covid-19, it will be easy to identify and alert anyone that person has interacted with.
- Communicate with cleaning professionals to develop a consistent plan to sanitize the office space. Let them know when employees will not be using the office to help them do their job to the best of their ability.
The threat of the coronavirus has been reduced, but it continues to be the main stressor for entrepreneurs and business leaders. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available for those who need some extra help or guidance during this transitional period. Minnesota entrepreneurs can find more information and special benefits through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization network by clicking here!