As shelter-in-place directives originally enforced to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) begin to ease across the nation, employers planning to reopen their workplace must set utmost prioritization on implementing new operating policies and procedures before resuming business as usual.
The details surrounding each employer’s reopening plan will be different, however, several readiness themes that organizations will need to understand, continuously fine-tune and begin preparing for now may include:
As health concerns related to the virus remain present although shelter-in-place orders begin to loosen, it is critical that organizations shift focus towards measures that promote a safe workplace. Reopening strategies may include some of the following measures to ensure peak workplace safety for physically returning employees:
Establish Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Requirements
- Determine if masks, gloves or face shields will be required for employees or visitors entering the workplace.
- Provide employees with personal hand sanitizer for their personal work spaces or implement hand sanitizing stations intermittently throughout common areas.
- Continually procure necessary PPE and consistently monitor inventory levels of these items over the next several months (make note that PPE product availability and shipping times may be longer than usual – account for this as reopening strategy are being finalized).
- Provide receptacles for any used/discarded PPE.
Detail and Display Cleaning Procedures
- Work closely with any property managers or janitorial contractors to ensure that all cleaning procedures are clearly outlined and visible for employees and building visitors at multiple and relevant areas that are highly trafficked.
- Utilize any workplace arrival or reception areas to reinforce messages, outline any new protocols.
Establish Physical Distancing Measures & Monitor Density
- Stagger as many employee shifts as possible to decrease density in highly trafficked areas.
- Rearrange workstations to increase separation distance.
- Implement one-way traffic patterns throughout the workplace and visibly mark these areas with floor signage and reminder notices throughout.
- Decommission and re-purpose large gathering and meeting areas (convert these to single occupancy use spaces or ensure that any new workstations are further than 6 feet away from one another).
Restrict Business Travel to Employees
- Begin with permitting essential travel only and define what that means to your organization.
- Continually revisit federal guidance and travel vendor guidelines as shelter in place orders begin to ease.
Define Customer and Visitor Contact Protocols
- Direct and limit customer and visitor traffic through the workplace with visible signage and clear directives.
- Limit the number of individuals in any area at one time.
- Utilize video or telephone conferencing versus in-person meetings when possible.
- Provide contactless pickup and delivery options for customers if an in-person exchange is necessary when conducting business.
Employee Recall Protocols
While employees may express eagerness to return to the workplace in order to regain normalcy and productivity, it’s imperative that any employee recall protocols are deliberate and exercised through a controlled approach. Consider the following when planning your recall strategy:
Phase-In Employees Physically Returning to the Workplace
- Create a recall schedule using nondiscriminatory factors (seniority levels, etc.) for employee phase-in selection and decide who will return to the workplace and when. Stagger recall start dates following the delineation of various Employee groups.
- Provide specific instructions to employees once established. Make employees aware of any policy and procedural updates and confirm receipt of these details with each prior to the recall date.
- Consider adopting a work share program or supplemental unemployment benefits (SUB) plan if employees are being recalled and face reduced number of hours.
Notify Your State Unemployment Agency
- Report and validate information related to employees that are being recalled to State Unemployment Agencies (this may be required depending on what state your business operates in).
Policies & Procedures
Update Employee Handbook
- Revise any new corporate policies and procedures that have been implemented in response to the outbreak.
- Add language to any line items to include employee guidance for newly implemented policies and procedures (updated workplace safety guidelines that will remain permanent, teleworking tools and requirements, enhanced technology security measures, etc.)
- Review and/or revise leave policies including paid time off (PTO), bereavement, remote work and childcare policies.
- Review guidance surrounding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to determine how legislation may impact your revised leave policies.
Update or Establish a Pandemic Recovery Plan
- Amend existing plans to include up-to-date emergency information such as workplace considerations or any revisions to protocols for responding to global disasters.
- Establish an operational emergency team to continuously monitor external and internal data and implement appropriate protocols as guidance is being continuously updated.
- Launch procedures for alert and outbreak verification to receive any early warnings should the virus re-surge – have a plan in the event additional stay at home directives are advised.
Communicate to Mitigate Workforce Anxiety
It’s important to keep in mind that employees returning to the workplace may have experienced some physical, emotional, psychological or even financial hardship throughout the various stages of the pandemic. Recommendations surrounding communication include:
Reinforce Cultural Reminders
- Reiterate any messaging of the overall vision of the organization and how it may be impacted during this time of change and stress.
- Make clear that a safe workplace ultimately is shared responsibility for the health of all employees.
Increase and Maintain Engagement with Employees
- A thoughtful communication plan will net positive results among employees. Consider ongoing and frequent updates to keep employees informed. There is no such thing as “too much” communication during this time of uncertainty.
- Provide clear guidance on where employees can turn if they experience any concerns about their health, dependent care or job security.
- Keep employees engaged and protect their well-being (ensure that leadership across the board are providing adequate support and keeping their team connected).
- Understand how the outbreak has impacted employees personally as this may affect their personal connection to the organization.
Some organizations may find using a mix of these readiness essentials helpful as they prepare the workplace for the physical return of their employees. As each entity begins navigating this unfamiliar territory, it is important to remain abreast of any workplace guidance published by our governing bodies, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
For additional guidance as employees physically return to work, contact Clearview Group’s Director of HR Consulting, Tina Miceli at email@example.com.