The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every business in some way. While some businesses were forced to shut down completely, others operated at limited capacity. As more states start to reopen, it is important for businesses to have protections in place to keep employees and customers safe. This involves developing a reopening plan for your office and creating policies that promote healthy hygiene habits and employee safety.
Preparing a Reopening Plan
Before reopening your office, you should have a strategic plan in place that focuses on customer and employee safety. If you do not already have one, consider creating a Pandemic Response Team (PRT) that consists of representatives from business operations, finance, corporate management, facilities maintenance, human resources, and company safety personnel. With the help of a PRT, you can develop a reopening plan that works well for your team and facility.
When creating your reopening plan, consider criteria to decide who should return to work and how many staff should stay on the workforce. You will also want to establish a plan for sanitation and guidelines for deep cleaning. Protocols for health screenings can help ensure that employees remain healthy and that any concerning symptoms are addressed right away. You will also want to develop policies pertaining to clients, visitors, and other people who may have access to the building.
Helpful Tips for Employee Safety
Every business is different and faces varying risks. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to reopening a business after COVID-19; however, there are certain suggestions that could help employees stay safe while performing their normal job duties. If your office works directly with clients you may want to set a “no personal contact” rule that limits handshaking, hugging, and other physical contact. Employees should practice “no item sharing” when possible, limiting exposure to shared objects like staplers, pens, file folders, dry erase markers, computers, and desk space.
Offices may also want to consider thinking outside of the box, perhaps breaking the 9 to 5 workday rule. By adjusting work hours, you can minimize the number of employees that are in the office at one time. You will also want to ensure that your cleaning crew is working efficiently to keep the office clean throughout the day. This may involve more frequent cleanings than normal. Items that are shared or in common spaces should also be cleaned more frequently using a disinfectant solution. When creating your reopening plan, it is important to consider specifics in your office, such as the number of people, the layout of the space and the amount of contact between workers and shared items.
Here is a look at some other important guidelines and suggestions that your facility should follow when reopening your office.
Practice Social Distancing
As part of your office reopening plan, consider ways to practice social distancing. If telework is not possible, it is important for employees to maintain a safe distance of at least six feet from one another. This can be achieved in a number of ways; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends changing the layout of your office to put a minimum of six feet between workstations. Installing physical barriers can also be useful for creating space in walkways. Businesses should also consider closing communal spaces, such as cafeterias and break rooms, as these places tend to have numerous people within close proximity.
Wash Hands Regularly
In addition to practicing social distancing, do your best to enforce the CDC’s guidelines for proper handwashing. Hands should be washed before, during, and after preparing food, before eating, before and after taking care of someone who is ill, after using the toilet, before and after treating a wound, after touching an animal or animal feed, after touching garbage, and after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing. When soap and water is not readily available, encourage your employees to use hand sanitizer. Consider having hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol available for your employees to use.
Employee health monitoring is also an essential component of any business reopening plan. Before opening, develop a plan for monitoring your employee’s health. Familiarize yourself with COVID-19 symptoms and decide how you will handle a positive case of coronavirus if it should appear in your workplace. This will typically involve isolating the employee and moving them away from other employees, customers and visitors. Any designated area that has closable doors may serve as an isolation room until the employee can be safely removed from the building. A high temperature is a common sign of COVID-19; consider performing temperature checks when employees arrive at the workplace.
Make Sure Employee Benefits are Up to Date
During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses should consider modifying their leave and absence protocols to adapt to the ‘new normal’. It may be necessary to change your policy to allow employees to stay home from work if they feel ill or have been exposed to COVID-19. If you have fewer than 500 employees you will be obligated under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to provide your workers with up to 12 weeks of public health emergency leave. It is also important to familiarize yourself with workers’ compensation laws in regards to COVID-19. Depending on the circumstances, contracting coronavirus in the workplace may or may not be considered a workplace illness for purposes of workers’ compensation.
Work with BBG
As states continue to lift their stay-at-home orders following the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses across the U.S. are developing reopening plans. Many brick-and-mortar businesses have been forced to modify their operations or have shut down completely which will make it challenging to return to normal business operations. Of course, every business is different which requires a different plan of attack. For more information about reopening your office in a way that promotes employee safety, speak with the experienced benefits consultants at BBG.