Across the U.S., companies of all sizes have been forced to close their businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, mandatory restrictions are beginning to ease, and some businesses are starting to reopen. But there remains a great deal of uncertainty. Many employers are worried about liability. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is lobbying congress for immunity for businesses from Coronavirus lawsuits. But this may never transpire. At least in the near term, businesses will need to continue to follow all federal, state and local guidelines, and recommended best practices, and use their own sound judgement. With that in mind, here are some tips for preparing your workplace and workforce for reopening after COVID-19.
Consider How Your Individual Business Might Need to Evolve
Every business is different, and companies must begin by thinking strategically about their own unique circumstances. Consider how your business has been adapting to evolving circumstances during the COVID-19 crisis or how it may need to adapt with respect to your products and services offerings. Which parts of your business make the most sense to focus on now, given the current state of the market? How has demand increased or slowed? Where are your best opportunities? What do your team and staffing needs look like? How will you need to adjust your workforce for this, going forward?
Know Workers May Be Nervous, Continue to Be Flexible with Work From Home Policies
Before bringing any workers back, make sure you are complying with all critical OSHA Guidelines on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 (downloadable pdf). Recognize that there are many workers who will feel uncomfortable returning to work and the “old ways” of operating at work. Be respectful of their concerns and adjust, as necessary. Remember, too, that many of your customers will also be feeling the same way.
- Plan to be more flexible with Work From Home (WFH) policies
- If you’ve been winging your WFH policies to date, then it’s time to develop a well thought-out permanent set of policies for both the immediate future, and in the event that there is a second wave of the virus.
- For the near-term, consider reducing the number of people in your workspace by implementing remote or shift work.
- Make a concerted effort to do more video-conferencing– again, both with employees who may still be working remotely, as well as clients who will appreciate your attention to maximum safety.
Follow Best Practices. Minimize Risk By Maximizing Cleanliness and Sanitization.
At work, it’s also a good idea to follow all CDC best practices.
- Continue to follow recommended social distancing rules.
- Do you need to rearrange your workspace to accommodate recommended guidelines?
- Make sure the cleanliness of your workspace is at its highest, especially shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and break rooms.
- Pay extra attention to sanitizing high-touch areas (elevators, door handles, handrails, printers, water-coolers, etc.)
- Have hand-sanitizer readily available.
- Consider posting signs about the importance of hand-washing and proper etiquette for sneezing and coughing.
Be Vigilant in Reducing Transmission Among Employees
- Dissuade any sick employees from coming into a shared work space.
- Quickly separate anyone who shows any symptoms from others and send them home.
- If you are a large employer, you may want to consider using a no-contact thermometer to check employees’ temperatures upon their arrival.
As Circumstances Evolve, Adjust Your Staffing to Suit Your Needs
At least in the near-term, we’re going to be in a recessionary environment. Some expect an immediate, big bounce back with pent-up demand fueling a surge in business. Others are calling for a prolonged period of economic disruption (12-18 months) with multiple waves of the disease continuing to affect our economy. Regardless of whether you hold an optimistic or pessimistic view, be prepared.
- Be ready to supplement missing team members with part-time or temporary staffing support.
- Closely monitor the health of your business, your expenses and cash flow.
- Be proactive and consider how your staffing should evolve to optimize operations, whether that is relying on more outsourced work and HR support if you are one of the lucky companies who have seen your workloads increase during the pandemic (i.e. grocery stores, delivery services, logistics companies, health-care related products and services, PPC equipment manufacturers, etc.) or hiring different kinds of full or part-time workers to suit changing organizational needs.
- Business may be quite uneven for a while, as we deal with both pent-up demand and a wounded economy. Working with a staffing firm that offers Total Talent Management (TTM) (the practice of finding the right mix of full-time employees, temporary workers, independent contractors and freelancers on a temporary or continuing basis), can be the perfect strategy during this time manage your needs as required, with laser-focus.)