As employers begin reopening their businesses, questions arise about what preparations they should be making. Many businesses are considering a phased approach, bringing employees in non-customer facing roles back first, using staggered work schedules, or uniquely scheduled teams to aid with social distancing. Each business will need a specific strategy for reopening; however, there are certain common areas to address.
State and local authorities will provide guidelines for reopening. Multistate employers must follow each state’s guidelines, plus any local governmental entity’s guidance, for each location in which they operate. Specific industries may have additional requirements as well.
General procedures and policies employers can consider:
- Continuing teleworking: Employees who have become used to teleworking may feel more comfortable continuing to do so. How will this affect management, communications, and staffing if some operations are on-site while others are teleworking? Can higher populations telework rather than returning to the workplace?
- Social Distancing: Social distancing will remain important as workplaces reopen. What unique issues exist at your worksite? Can schedules be adjusted to minimize the numbers of employees in the workplace at any given time? Are people at least 6 feet apart when working? How can social distancing be achieved in common areas like conference rooms, breakrooms, or lunchrooms? Should signs be posted to remind employees, visitors, and customers of social distancing and good hygiene practices What employee training will be provided on social distancing policies?
- Common Spaces: Have you considered the flow of traffic in your office? Is there a bottle neck with only one door to meeting rooms, bathrooms, break rooms, etc? It’s not just how many people are in the room, but how do they get in and out? It may be hard to adhere to strict social distancing if people have to squeeze around each other for entrance and egress to a room or office, or squeeze around a meeting table even if they will eventually sit six feet apart.
- Protective Equipment: Will employees be asked or required to wear masks, gloves, or other protective equipment? Will the employer provide the items and train employees on their use?
- Temperature checks: Will your organization require temperature checking of employees, visitors, or customers? Do you have the equipment and trained employees to do these tests? What records of the results will you keep, and where? Will you pay employees for the time spent in the checking process? Are there state laws that require payment for this? How will you address customers or vendors if they cannot be admitted due to test results? Employees proving symptomatic should be sent home until released by a medical authority.
- Sanitation: How will workspaces, common and high use areas be cleaned and disinfected? Will special procedures be implemented for cleaning items handled by customers? Will cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer be made available to employees, customers, and visitors? If you cannot get supplies, should you open?
- Minimizing non-essential travel: Can employee business travel be minimized? Can virtual communications be substituted for in-person meetings?
- Accommodating vulnerable populations: Those at high risk due to age or health factors should not be discriminated against when reopening the business. If such an employee requests an accommodation, the employer should work with the employee. Employers Council can provide advice for handling specific employee situations needing accommodation.
- Develop a contact tracking method: What is your protocol for identifying those exposed to an employee who tests positive? Consider sharing information on positive cases with public health authorities, other employees, workplace guests, and customers who may have been exposed by the employee. Develop a consistent return to work and fitness-for-duty approach. Monitor the Centers for Disease Control and local public health authorities regarding reporting and contact tracking.
Considering these factors in advance of returning employees to work will help make the transition smoother and more organized, and provide a good foundation for continuing to ramp up operations as the situation continues to evolve.
See Employers Council’s Checklist for returning employees to work here.
View our Coronavirus resource page here.