There is no more business as usual. Things are different. Our world is vastly different than it was two months ago as we’ve navigated the choppy waters of social distancing, essential work forces, and shelter-in-place telework policies. The question is, what does it look like now, what will it look like next month and what are the new requirements as businesses slowly begin to regroup, reopen and reassess their business plans?
Whatever it is, there will certainly be a renewed focus on what we need to do to achieve the new normal.
What we do know at this time is that returning to work won’t be the same for every workplace, but there is one thing for certain, and that is it will require new protocols and the implementation of safety measures in social distancing as employees return to offices around the country.
As many companies are now in preparation for bringing their workforce back into the office where operations can begin again, it means establishing extensive post COVID-19 protocols and following phased-in safety measures according to federal and local government guidance.
Pre-Return Checklist for Managers:
The first thing that managers and company owners should do is consult the CDC and OSHA guidelines for readying office environments to reopen. The CDC offers suggestions for employers how to plan, prepare and respond to the Coronavirus Disease.
As of May 6, 2020, the CDC provided these guidelines before returning employees to the workplace:
- Updated strategies and recommendations for employers responding to COVID-19, including those seeking to resume normal or phased business operations:
- Conducting daily health checks
- Conducting a hazard assessment of the workplace
- Encouraging employees to wear cloth face coverings in the workplace, if appropriate
- Implementing policies and practices for social distancing in the workplace
- Improving the building ventilation system
- A table outlining the engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE) that employers may use to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace
Preparing the Physical Office Space:
There is much to be done to ready your office space. What worked in the past won’t work now. Stock up and order supplies – including cleaning supplies, Clorox wipes, tissues, paper products, handsoap and hand sanitizers. Where needed, protective gear and PPE for those who must be around the public or in close proximity with others. Follow OSHA guidance on preparing your office space.
Some other options are to:
- Redesign workstations or office space to allow 6 feet of safe distance between desks and cubbies
- Create signs and placards on safe hand washing techniques, safe coughing techniques, etc.
- Establish a cleaning schedule for all public spaces, doors, high traffic areas, desks, kitchens, etc.
Preparing the Workforce:
Communicating expectations to your employees is of utmost importance. Litigation and law suits are on the rise due to the heavy concern over employers requiring their staff to return without considering the health implications.
Managers should anticipate higher than normal levels of anxiety from employees and uncertainty over the next 3 to 6 months. An increase in absences due to Coronavirus exposures and lack of child care options will also be seen because schools, day cares and upcoming summer camps that employees with children relied upon are now closed.
Rethink and reevaluate the company’s benefit plans, packages and sick leave policies to ensure you’re following the latest federal and local Family Medical Leave, Families First Coronavirus Response Act and sick leave laws.
Alter your hiring and talent acquisition protocol and onboarding strategies. Instead of in-person interviews, consider alternatives such as electronic and virtual meetings.
Increase communication frequency on health and safety topics and open it up for employee suggestions.
Expect to continue offering flexible working arrangements or rotating schedules within the office to minimize the number of employees in one single site. Reconsider the “old way” of meeting in person and continue maximizing social distancing virtual meeting platforms whenever possible.
We at JB Consulting Systems knows all of these changes requires hours of work and preparation in order to get your business back to the new normal. JB Consulting Systems is here to help. Contact us today for support with identifying your business’s needs and creating safe return-to-work protocols.