After weeks of teleworking or shutdowns, many businesses are beginning to welcome employees back to the workplace. And, while many who are returning to work anticipate getting back to normal, the truth is that, for many businesses, things won’t the same as they left them in March.
There are many challenges that businesses are facing today that they’ve never faced before. How can businesses put their best foot forward and protect their team members? We’ve outlined six tips to help lay the groundwork for businesses returning to work.
1. Know the Regulations for Re-Opening
Employers have a responsibility to understand the federal, state and local guidelines that impact their specific organization and to institute policies accordingly.
The federal government has proposed a three-phase approach to re-opening the economy. Each phase includes different restrictions and precautions that businesses should take when re-opening their workplaces.
It’s also important to monitor state and local regulations for areas in which your business operates. Knowing the regulations that apply to your business can help you to make policies that can ensure a safe environment for the individuals in your workplace.
2. Create Policies to Protect Your Employees After Re-Opening Your Business
To create a plan and document preparations for re-opening your business, it’s best to begin by assembling a task force that represents all aspects of your business and is familiar with its operations. These individuals can work together to formulate, communicate and enforce your business’s policies in a way that’s effective for your specific organization.
Think through what policies make the most sense for your business and your specific operations when it comes to items to provide, behaviors to encourage, changes to make to your physical space and policies or restrictions to implement that can keep your employees, vendors and customers safe.
- Where and how might my employees be exposed to COVID-19?
- How will our business respond if faced with a large number of employee absences?
- How can we support employees who are at high risk for complications for COVID-19?
- How will we respond if a team member has a confirmed case of COVID-19 on company premises?
3. Provide the Right Supplies and Personal Protective Equipment
Regardless of your company’s industry or the tasks your employees are completing, it’s important to provide basic amenities essential to heightened personal hygiene, such as tissues, hand soap and water, hand sanitizer and waste receptacles.
Aside from the things necessary for personal hygiene, the supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) that you should provide to your employees will largely depend on your specific business and the nature of its operations. PPE, such as masks, gloves and gowns, should be selected based upon the risk of the employee’s tasks.
If you do supply PPE to your team members, it’s important to train them about its proper usage, and it’s important to remember that PPE should not be a substitute for recommended hygienic practices, such as handwashing.
4. Sanitize and Disinfect the Workplace
Ensure that frequently used surface areas and high traffic common areas such as breakrooms and restrooms are visibly clean and are sanitized often. For spaces in the workplace assigned to specific individuals, you may want to consider providing cleaning products so that employees can assume responsibility for cleaning their own workspaces.
5. Implement Social Distancing Procedures
Educate the people in your workplace about recommended social distancing measures and suggested hygiene procedures. Encourage individuals in your workplace to refrain from shaking hands, to stay a minimum of six feet away from others and to avoid sharing office supplies and tools.
To further increase social distancing in the workplace, businesses may consider reducing staffing levels per shift, reworking office spaces, installing physical barriers and increasing interior ventilation.
6. Screen Employees for Symptoms Of COVID-19
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that it’s appropriate for companies to institute temperature screening for its employees at this time. Your business may want to consider screening employees for symptoms through instituting temperature checks before employees can enter the workplace.
However, companies should ensure that they are preserving medical privacy and abiding by regulations like HIPAA and that those assigned to take employee temperatures are properly trained to do so.
Asking employees to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms can also be an effective measure. Before you re-open your workplace, and periodically, ask your employees to evaluate their own symptoms. Consider providing your employees with a list of symptoms or indicators, such as extended travel or exposure to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, so they can provide their own voluntary screenings.
More Information about Returning to the Workplace
In this season, it’s important to remember that each business is different, each has its own needs, and each should develop policies that can best protect their specific organization and employees.
This article reflects our views at the time this article was written and should be used as reference only. We recommend that you talk to your Warren Averett advisor, or another business advisor, for the most current information or for guidance specific to your organization.