Most of us are ready to resume our lives after being shut in for so many weeks. However, as businesses reopen and resume normal operations, they need to keep in mind the lessons we’ve learned from this crisis and prepare for the fact that COVID-19 may be seasonal like flus and colds. Because of that, employers need to begin creating ways to protect employees and visitors to their facilities from the spread of disease.
Everyone’s situation is unique because much of how we are able social distance in the workplace depends on how big our spaces are and whether or not we have the room to place workspaces 6 feet apart. Executives need to begin thinking about whether or not their workspaces can be redesigned before employees are recalled. If not, what other protocols can be implemented to prevent the spread of disease?
Some of the protocols already adopted by the grocery stores and banks should remain in place in those environments and may be adaptable into other businesses. For example, Plexiglas barriers between a cashier and customer, marked spaces that are 6 feet apart for individuals to wait in line, and more options to pay bills touchlessly through such apps as Apple Wallet will become the norm. Another consideration for some businesses would be to look at what some of the theme parks have done by loading park tickets and an individual’s credit card onto a bracelet that allows them to enter the park and purchase food and items throughout the park using their wristband.
Telework will need to be better evaluated to determine how much work can be done outside of our traditional offices. While many employers were able to quickly transition employees to telework, most of that was done without properly evaluating IT security protocols, evaluating how much of an employee’s job could actually be performed remotely, or whether or not an employee’s living space was conducive to performing productive work. As we bring employees back to work and begin the process of preparing for the next round of “stay at home” orders, employers must focus on their telework programs and make sure they are working with their IT departments or consultants to ensure security of company information is maintained to the best extent possible.
Consider creating more flexible schedules that would reduce the number of employees in a workspace on a regular basis.
More meetings and training programs may be handled virtually rather than in person.
For those employers who host lunch meetings, consider serving boxed lunches rather than serving them buffet style.
Consider how the facility will be sanitized on a regular basis. For typical offices, that could simply mean asking those responsible for janitorial services to more frequently disinfect desks, light switches, doorknobs, phones, etc. Businesses that are regularly visited by the public will need to evaluate how you may be able to better disinfect those public areas. It may mean increasing the number of times those public areas are cleaned.
If you haven’t already done so, consider providing masks and/or gloves to employees who work closely together and/or who regularly interact with visitors.
Many employers were unprepared to respond to contagious diseases in the workplace. Now is the time to adopt policies that require employees to stay home when they’re sick. Establish and/or review your policy regarding contagious diseases. Begin educating employees about how various diseases are spread and what they can do to prevent them from spreading. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website has vast information on topics such as flu, colds, measles, COVID-19, and many other diseases.
Bringing employees back into the workplace in as safe and orderly a manner as possible will help businesses resume productivity quickly. Establishing protocols to minimize exposure to contagious diseases in the future will help our businesses maintain that productivity and prepare them to maintain operations should another outbreak occur.
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