It is almost a euphemism to suggest the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted havoc upon individuals, businesses, governments, and economies worldwide. Furthermore, the coronavirus continues to confound; in some US regions where it once seemed to abate, it has accelerated, whereas in others it seems to have unexpectedly leveled off. As businesses reopen following state and local government allowances, employers face challenges as a result of this viral uncertainty. Business leaders must also sift through guidelines, suggestions, and mandates that provide conflicting information or sometimes insufficient guidance. For both ethical and legal reasons, however, employers must act decisively, thoughtfully, and cautiously if they are going to bring employees back and cannot rely on remote work options. The following suggestions may, at minimum, help you and your business prepare to make the transition in as safe a manner as possible, while providing an environment that reassures its workers.
Use Federal Reference Points
Companies start with a business plan and continue to function based on spelled-out rules and procedures. You have emergency and health and safety plans in place already. You have to decide how much is relevant to the current situation. A focus of the plan should be to choose carefully the prescription to follow. The template standard for reopening is the Centers for Disease Control guidelines that aim to apply a one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, the White House references the CDC as part of its reopening guidance. The procedures outlined in the guidelines are detailed and extensive.
To ensure accountability for the plans you implement, you must take the time to digest the points in the guidelines. It is important to note, however, that the guidelines may change; in fact, the current CDC recommendations contain at least two updates that have been added since the initial document creation. On these and more, you must be clear; according to legal experts Oberheiden P.C., a law firm that specializes in federal cases, compliance missteps and oversight can lead to severe consequences.
Understand Where You Fit In
While both sets of guidelines may be considered standard, they point to distinctions based on categories of businesses. Here you must drill down further as you pour over them, to so that you are clear where your business fits before moving forward - in fact, the CDC notes that your preparedness, response, and control plans be workplace specific. For example, you will need to identify not only whether your business is a high-risk venture, but which workers are most at risk. If you are a business that can adapt, can you open using measures that reduce risk, such as a restaurant offering outdoor seating while also accepting fewer reservations?
Take These Specific Steps
The most important thing you can do is to show employees you care about their welfare and that of their families. However detailed your safety and response plan is, project simplicity so that it is clear and understandable, using presentations and signage to present at least the following:
Change the workspaces to ensure social distancing.
Create barriers between customers and employees.
Eliminate gathering spaces.
Require mask-wearing if possible.
Keep point-to-point contacts short.
Encourage sick days as necessary so that symptomatic workers do not come to work.
These actions are all doable. Other actions may be more involved and costly. For example, if you cannot provide fresh ventilation, can you change your mechanical systems to pump in fresh air?
As 2019 came to an end, you and your employees likely looked toward the New Year with optimism. A once-in-a-century pandemic drastically altered the outlook for virtually all companies around the world. Making plans to reopen business so that your employees return to the safest environment possible will protect both them and your business.