Reopening Your Business Safely and ProperlyPosted on Jun 24, 2021
The global pandemic of COVID-19 forced millions of businesses, offices, and schools to shut down. More than a year into it, we are finally seeing some reprieve with vaccinations and lower infection rates.
However, many people are still working at home, which may change soon as COVID numbers drop. But, where do you go from here? How can you ensure it is safe to reopen your organization? Below you will find some tips and guidelines for reopening your business safely and properly.
Check Your State’s Guidelines
Each state has been affected by COVID differently and therefore has different guidelines on capacity, masks, and other health-related rules. Check with your state to see what your specific guidelines are based on not only your location but your type of business.
You’ll need to ensure you have proper signage and the ability to screen employees for COVID, guidelines for employees, and whether any other accommodations have to be made to open.
Create a Return Plan
There is more that has to be done besides simply telling employees to return. Some things to consider are:
- How do your employees feel about returning? Ask your employees to see how they feel. Communicate with them the needs of the office and have them communicate their needs. There will be adjustments on both sides, but communication is crucial.
- What accommodations do they need to feel safe? Employees have gotten accustomed to being in the safety of their homes. Ask your employees what accommodations they will need to make sure they feel safe in the office.
- Do you have proper PPE? Depending on the state requirements, you may have to have specific PPE available. Ensure you have access to the PPE required and have it ready for reopening.
- How will you screen employees for COVID? Employers can screen for COVID as long as it is done with the employees’ privacy in mind. There are many options for screening, such as self-screening or temperature checks. Decide which screening works best for your organization.
- What is your contingency plan if someone tests positive for COVID? While numbers are declining, it is still possible for someone to get COVID. Your office should have a plan in place if someone in your office tests positive, including contact tracing, possibly closing the office, or switching back to teleworking options.
- How will the office be rearranged to ensure social distancing? To encourage social distancing, an office may need to be rearranged. How can you do that? Do you need plexiglass or new furniture? Having a plan in place to reorganize the office space will need to be considered before your employees return.
- Can you offer a flexible schedule? Office’s have been extremely flexible over the last year, but can it continue? You may have to be flexible in the event of COVID or adjustments. Determining the needs of your office and the needs of your employees will be important in moving forward.
- How will you ensure the office is clean? Cleaning the office has changed since COVID. Cleaning needs to be done more often and with more diligence to prevent the spread of COVID.
Make Applicable Human Resources Changes
There may have been changes to an employee’s status, hours, or pay during COVID. If you are reopening your office, you might have to work with your human resources department to make changes to employees being back on site.
Stagger Your Employees
People have spent the last year away from their colleagues. Stagger their return so they can adjust not just to their workplace again but also their “new normal.” Additionally, having fewer employees in the office will allow the staff to social distance better.
Create New Employee Guidelines
Employees will need new guidelines that meet both their needs and the needs of their office – to maintain safety for all. Evaluate what employees will need to do to return: no congregation, virtual meetings, cancel events, and other guidelines that will prevent the spread of germs.
Set Your Office Guidelines
- What will be your office’s guidelines towards visitors?
- Will you allow them in?
- Will they need a mask?
Determining those guidelines and consequences ahead of time will empower your staff to reinforce the rules.
Create a Checklist
The best way to accomplish all these tasks is to create a checklist. Before you can reopen, check off the tasks on the list to have the safest and most comfortable space for your employees.
By creating a checklist, including the guidelines listed here, you are not only showing your employees that you have their safety in mind, but you are also paving the way for efficiency and productivity for your business once it is reopened. Additionally, it will show your insurance company that you are doing as much as possible to eliminate risk.
Check Your Insurance Policy
Make sure your insurance company knows you have done your research and you have done everything on the checklist to know you take it seriously.
Additionally, your insurance company may have new guidelines related to COVID and workplace returns that they need you to enforce on your end as part of the “new normal.”