The Coronavirus pandemic has had a tremendous impact on our daily lives, especially when it comes to our work environment and business practices. For businesses that will survive the pandemic, work habits and customs are likely to change for the foreseeable future. The reemergence of in-person meetings, international conferences, and busy crowded office spaces is uncertain. As more employees continue to adopt a new normal, the likelihood of falling back into our traditional routines decreases. Risk management teams around the nation are beginning to create new plans for reopening their workplaces, especially as President Trump introduced “Opening Up America Again” guidelines for reopening the American economy on April 16, 2020. Because of the lingering threat on the public’s health, employers are being forced to reassess their business practices and are beginning to create their own guidelines to promote safety and efficiency. Here’s how successful industry leaders are creating their reopening plans:
As employers prepare for reopening, the main point of concern for many of them is how to keep employees safe in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published guidelines for employers as they prepare their workplaces for employees’ return. These guidelines place heavy importance on cleanliness, suggesting extra precautions to disinfect frequently are taken. Employees returning to work can expect to be screened upon entry, have their temperature taken and asked to wear personal protective equipment, like masks and hand coverings, when frequenting populated areas, such as hallways, restrooms, cafeterias, or in the case of sharing workspaces like a shared office or cubicle.
Because most if not all workplaces will reopen before the complete disappearance of COVID-19, many employers are beginning to inquire about employee testing. Traditionally, medical examinations and inquiries had to be job-related and consistent with business necessity. However, because of the threat COVID-19 poses, the CDC is recommending widespread testing.
Managing Physical Presence
Employees retuning to work shouldn’t expect a full workplace, especially in the beginning of the reopening stages. In fact, many employers will be honoring social distancing at work, asking employees not to gather in groups more than 10 and to keep 6 feet between individuals.
To honor these guidelines, many employers are establishing processes that will rotate which employees work from the office and which ones are to work from home. This will promote social distancing, while also ensuring coverage across roles. However, this process will need to be strategic, especially for those in the healthcare industry, retail and manufacturing to ensure all essential shifts are covered.
Rethinking Workspaces and Promoting Telecommuting
In order to observe social distancing regulations in the workplaces, most businesses will need to reorganize their work spaces. Many employers are doing this by increasing the physical distance between workspaces, installing transparent shields to divide desks, limit the number of people attending in-personal meetings, and maintain a consistent cleaning schedule to promote proper hygiene practices. In addition, many employers are limiting the number of entrances to one and screen employees as they enter.
While many employers will welcome their staff back into the workplace, some might consider prolonging telecommuting instead. Not only will this help employers minimize the number of individuals in a workspace, it will also help keep overhead costs down, which is especially important after many businesses continue to take financial hits.
Update Employment Policies
In light of all the changes being made because of COVID-19 precautions, employers should reassess current employment policies, or at least review them prior to opening. Policies like sick leave, vacation, business travel and paid time off might need to be updated to ensure they fit current needs. If your place of business plans to adjust policies on telecommuting to encourage working from home, make sure these are communicated frequently to employees. In addition, because policies have been changing frequently, employers should keep all COVID-19 policies and procedures in one location, making it easy for employees to access when in question.
Reassess Organization Needs
For most businesses, workplace habits and procedures are changing frequently. Because of this, it’s important for employers to review infrastructure needs, especially when it comes to supplying resources needed for those working from home. This could mean budgets needs to be reassessed to allocate more funds to internal IT departments or outsourcing. Many employers are also concentrating funds on communication channels, like professional video conferencing systems, to make sure internal communications are frequent, efficient, and effective.While returning to work is a glimmer of hope for many, creating reopening plans are essential to every organization’s success. Using these considerations when you begin your plan will help you ease the process of reopening your doors.
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