Businesses are beginning to open back up across America making employee health and safety a top priority. Before opening their doors, businesses must implement new practices and policies to ensure that employees and customers remain safe from further outbreaks of COVID-19. There are many ways that employees can keep themselves and each other safe, such as practicing social distancing and limiting exposure to shared items. Employees should also effectively communicate with employees the importance of monitoring their health and practicing workplace safety protocols.
Promote Employee Safety
Before reopening a business, it is important to familiarize yourself with employee safety guidelines. First, employees should continue practicing social distancing in the workplace by maintaining a six-foot distance from other people whenever possible and avoiding gathering in groups. To achieve proper social distancing, businesses may need to reorganize workspaces and desks. The number of seats in common areas should be reduced and break rooms should be properly managed to prevent large groups of people from gathering at one time. Employees should also avoid customary greetings involving physical contact.
Employees can also promote safety in the workplace post-COVID-19 by practicing good hygiene habits. This means handwashing on a regular basis and always after coughing or sneezing. Surfaces in the workplace should also be cleaned more frequently, especially shared computers, phones and workstations. Some industries or particular settings may require employees to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). This could include gloves and masks or other face coverings. PPE creates a barrier that can help prevent the spread of harmful viruses and germs.
Maintain Health Guidelines
In addition to establishing their own set of health guidelines, most businesses are obligated to follow national standards set by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). On the CDC website, you will find information available to the public that outlines ways to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The CDC covers a wide range of topics, such as social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and health-related care. While many of these guidelines remain consistent, some may change over time based on the progression of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases based on weekly updates posted by the CDC.
Businesses should regularly monitor the CDC website to check for updates. Establishing a protocol for sharing workplace health changes with employees and management is crucial to help keep everyone in the workplace safe. If changes should impact business operations, plans should already be in place for a smooth transition.
Prepare for Safe Interactions Between Employees & Clients
In workplaces where employees interact directly with clients, it is imperative to implement protective measures. Businesses should look to local and state public health authorities, as well as the CDC, to keep interactions between employees and clients as safe as possible. There are a variety of ways that businesses can help deter the spread of germs, such as by installing plexiglass barriers and shields between customers and cashiers. In restaurants, plexiglass should be used between patrons to prevent droplet exposure. Modifying the layout of a business can also be beneficial. Businesses should enforce limits on how many people are allowed inside the building and once inside, there should be signs that point out traffic patterns to control foot traffic.
When possible, businesses should try and limit interactions between employees and clients. Many businesses have already adopted new protocols that help limit these interactions, such as by offering curbside pickup or free delivery. While this has been ongoing among restaurants, retail stores can also provide these services. Businesses should encourage customers to use online forms of communication instead of face-to-face interactions; online portals, social media, and similar web-based forms of communication can help limit exposure to employees.
Communicate Effectively About Employee Safety
Clear communication is crucial following a major event like the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses have the responsibility of finding ways to effectively communicate with employees, stakeholders and customers. All communications should be timely, accurate and appropriate based on the situation and target audience. Communications should also be available, in a variety of forms, such as physically posted, delivered by text or published on websites, portals or social media. These communications should also be updated as needed or when the situation has changed.
Businesses should also provide employees with information about their legal employment rights under applicable laws like OSHA, ADA and FFCRA. These communications should be placed in the physical work location in an accessible area that everyone can clearly see and read. There should also be clear communication regarding potential exposure to COVID-19. Employees should be aware of their privacy rights if they should become exposed to the virus or if they receive a positive test result.
Update Your Employee Benefits with BBG
Many businesses are ready to reopen their doors and welcome back their loyal employees and customers. However, the impact of COVID-19 and the persisting threat of the virus will likely cause obstacles for businesses. Knowing how to handle these challenges can help ensure that employees and customers remain safe in the workplace. As part of your reopening plan, consider updating your employee benefits to better meet changing healthcare needs. For more information about employee benefits and why they are an important part of a reopening plan, reach out to the employee benefit consultants at BBG.