Many people fear contracting coronavirus once they go back to the office. So as a business leader, how do you assure your employees that they’ll be safe when they return to work?
Here are three things you need to do to prepare your Los Angeles, Orange County, Phoenix, or Denver office for returning staff.
#1 Prepare your physical spaces
Your office has been vacant for several weeks, which can mean refrigerators full of old food and equipment that refuse to work after not being used for a while. Returning to the office immediately is unwise without first doing the following:
The first thing to do is to clean and disinfect all the spaces and items in your workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided detailed instructions on how to do so, as well as a list of EPA-approved disinfectants known to be effective against the coronavirus. Sanitize as often as necessary, making sure to keep high-touch surfaces — doorknobs, light switches, handles, toilets, sinks, phone receivers and keypads, remotes, and shared equipment and electronics — and communal spaces clean at all times.
Sanitation is one of the easiest and most effective ways to eliminate or reduce exposure to the virus. It’s best to stock up on cleaning supplies and provide clear instructions for sanitation, which you can post in appropriate locations (e.g., break rooms, bathrooms, elevators, etc.).
Another step to preparing your office is reconfiguring your physical workplace to comply with social distancing guidelines. Make sure there’s at least a six-foot distance between workstations and people. But if safe distances can’t be maintained, consider installing physical barriers such as partitions or limiting the number of employees and visitors in the office at any given time.
It’s also likely that you have devices that have gone offline or need restarting. Check if all office equipment is working correctly, and repair or replace those that are broken. If there had been physical damage to your workplace, ensure that all inspections, remediations, and repairs are complete before reopening the space.
#2 Develop return-to-work policies
It’s imperative that you plan how and when employees will return to work to ensure an organized and controlled transition. Consider the following:
- Letting employees return in batches
Don’t let all employees return to the office at once. Think about which roles and functions are absolutely necessary to have in the office and let them work in shifts.
Determine schedule changes to accommodate returning employees while still limiting the number of people in the office.
Consider adopting a short-time compensation program or Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) Plan in which employees work on a reduced schedule and become eligible to collect partial unemployment benefits.
- Creating a plan for employees who are part of high-risk infection groups
Allow them to work remotely or remain on leave until they’re comfortable to return.
If they must report to the office, increase measures to protect them when working on-site, including isolated workstations or additional personal protective equipment (PPE). You can also consider allowing them to work fewer days in the office.
- Handling employees who can’t or aren’t comfortable returning to work
There are employees who (1) are afraid to return to work, (2) have family obligations that interfere with the ability to return to work, and (3) remain under quarantine due to exposure to the virus. Take into account the facts and circumstances of each individual case, but as an employer, it’s good practice to accommodate employees where possible.
Plan and create a written protocol for employees confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19.
It’s equally important to communicate to employees the policies regarding returning to work, working from home, and all other COVID-related plans. Likewise, identify and explain the steps you’ve taken to ensure their safety once they return to the office.
#3 Streamline communications
It’s important that you constantly communicate with your employees, whether they’re working at the office or from home. Especially with alternative work arrangements (e.g., some employees are working at the office in shifts while others continue working remotely), it’s necessary to streamline processes to make sure communication doesn’t break down.
To better manage your distributed teams, provide them with tools and applications that let them easily connect and collaborate with one another, no matter where they are. Real-time collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams allow multiple users to work together on a project simultaneously. You can set up a session for exploring different tools and apps with an expert like Prosum to make sure you select software that best fulfills your needs.
What else do you need to prepare?
Many of your returning staff have probably gotten used to their remote work routine, so it’s wise to give them plenty of time to get back into the swing of things at the office. Minor things like setting up their workstations, sharing a space with colleagues, and even traveling to work will require getting used to. It’s well worth developing reorientation processes and regularly checking in on employees.
Taking proactive measures to protect and communicate with your employees will increase their willingness to return and follow return-to-work policies, allowing your business to get back on track to success.
While you take care of your staff, let Prosum take care of your technology. With our proactive IT solutions, your business can be more productive, secure, and easier to manage. Call us today.