With governors across the country beginning to unveil blueprints for opening their state’s businesses and re-starting their economies, companies of all sizes must begin essential planning to create a safe and compliant workplace. Thoughtful planning will help ensure a smooth return to the workplace for your employees and assure them that you are taking all necessary precautions.
To help establish short- and long-term priorities as you strategize about what your business needs to do to reopen safely, ask yourself:
How will my business operate differently as workers return?
Always put people first
Although federal and state guidelines provide a framework for how businesses can open their doors – from social distancing guidelines to the maximum number of people who should be in a common area – you and your leadership team will have to determine what makes the best sense for your people, customers and clients.
This is the ideal time to review your current HR and workplace policies to see what needs to be implemented, enhanced or even possibly removed. Think about these key questions as you work through your policies:
- Does your office or workplace floor plan need to be reconfigured to meet social distancing protocols? How will that look?
- Do you need to consider creative scheduling that has workers rotating between in-office work and work from home?
- Will you need to provide personal safety equipment, such as face masks and gloves, on site when your employees return, and how will you procure, store and distribute these items?
- Does your company have the proper IT infrastructure to continue a longer-term home-based workforce?
- How will your company recruit and onboard new hires?
These are just some of the questions that organizations need to ask themselves in this new normal. When you reopen, your operations will not look the same as they did when you closed up shop to protect the safety of your employees, clients and customers.
Listen first, solutions second
Given the persistence of the pandemic, your employees are experiencing understandably high levels of anxiety, and even fear, about the prospect of returning to the workplace. It’s important that you and your leadership team listen to your employees’ concerns and questions to help address and prioritize issues that matter most to them. You may consider launching an internal employee survey or hosting virtual town halls to take the pulse of your team. Some questions you may consider include:
- Are your employees willing to return to the office – especially in those states already beginning to lift work-at-home-orders?
- Do they have questions about availability and access to COVID-19 testing?
- Are they curious about what short-term benefits might be available to them, such as at-home childcare assistance?
- Are your employees concerned about the future of your industry and potential layoffs?
Listening first will allow your organization to consider workplace solutions that are driven out of empathy and consideration. You know that you succeed when your people feel heard, supported and safe.
Communicate and own change
When businesses turn their “Open” signs, it will be critical for companies to keep their employees, customers and local communities informed of key decisions affecting the business operation and how they were made. You and your leadership team should be prepared for open communication and to discuss issues including:
- How is your company keeping your people safe? How will changes in the workplace impact employees?
- What employees should be considered essential in-office workers? What employees can continue working from home?
- How will employee bonuses or promotions be affected?
- Did your company receive any CARES Act assistance? If so, how are the funds being used, and how will that be communicated internally and externally?
Your leadership and guidance have never carried more weight with your employees, customers and communities than it has during these unprecedented times.
Remember, as you consider next steps, we’re here to help you navigate during this critical time.