Understanding and successfully navigating the challenges that employers have faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath has been incredibly challenging, to say the least. The policies and operational changes that are being made now will likely shape the entire workforce for years – and possibly decades – to come, including the increased focus on ensuring a safe and healthy work environment.
For this reason, it is absolutely essential that your business is completely ready to re-open before you bring employees back to work. As an employer, there are several key areas you will want to pay attention to and actions you should consider taking before even considering to re-open or bring your employees back to work. Ideally, these items should be aligned with your local government’s re-opening strategy, although in some areas with aggressive re-opening timelines, you may want to implement a more conservative approach.
Some of the essential activities you must consider before getting back to work include the following:
1. Facility Readiness
Before any business should re-open, the business must ensure that it has been properly prepared so that staff and clients can safely return. Preparing a facility may include some or all of the following actions:
- Thoroughly disinfect all surfaces and work areas. Ensure there is a plan to regularly disinfect surfaces with high exposure. Maintain cleaning supplies and monitor inventory level to ensure adequate stock.
- If necessary, re-arrange workstations so that employees maintain an appropriate social distance of six feet (minimum). Add partitions when appropriate to minimize physical contact between customers and employees and consider implementing a maximum size for meetings or in gathering spaces such as lunch or break rooms.
- Stock safety supplies and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that may be necessary to ensure that your workplace can continue to be disinfected regularly, and employees have the resources they need to minimize exposure risks.
These are just a few of the activities that you may want to consider in order to get your building or facility ready to re-open. Depending upon your specific business needs, you may be able to identify additional actions that may be necessary prior to opening.
2. Human Resource Needs
Many companies will need to address the evolving needs of their business and workforce by changing their human resource policies. Doing this before re-opening ensures that you are meeting all governmental guidelines and regulations pertaining to COVID-19 changes, and it prevents confusion across your team. If you have updated policies, let your employees know exactly where to look for any information or guidance they may need. Make sure you have appropriate and up-to-date forms and templates.
In preparing these new policies, it’s important to address any remote working policies or sick leave policies that may be applicable to your workforce. Ideally, companies should make these HR changes as a part of a broader return-to-work plan, which encompasses all of the elements discussed in this list. Talk to your HR consultant if you have any questions or issues or need updated forms and templates.
3. Workforce Preparation
Another important element in re-opening safely is preparing your workforce and your ability to address challenges that may arise. At a minimum, employers should take some time considering the following:
- Implement safe practices to screen employees. Many employers are legally able to take employee temperature prior to them physically entering the workplace and restrict them from entering if they are symptomatic. Some higher-risk companies may also be able to currently administer COVID tests. As tests become increasingly available, more employers may want to consider administering tests upon entry. However, before completing any of these actions, you will need to ensure that you have sound and safe procedures for doing so, and the capabilities to keep employee health information confidential.
- Address the criteria for remote work, sick leave, and how and when employees should return to work.
- Develop a plan for employees to return to work. Many employers are prioritizing the return of their most crucial individuals or departments first and adopting a phased return. Others are considering part-time returns for all staff to limit the number of people who are present at any given time.
4. Plan for the Future
Addressing the immediate concerns on this list is essential prior to re-opening any business, but it’s also important for employers to begin planning for the future, including establishing contingency plans that address a potential second wave of COVID-19 later in the year.
In addition to a comprehensive COVID-19 preparedness plan, it’s also a great idea to consider what your long-term workplace changes may be and try to plan for those as much as possible. This exercise will put your business in a much better place to handle any unforeseen challenges that may arise, whether they are related to the pandemic or not.
CA HR Services specializes in working with small and medium-sized companies to help develop legal, efficient and appropriate HR processes and procedures that meet state and federal labor law requirements. Call us them today at 858-391-6601 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org