The world is reeling from the implications of COVID-19 and the length of time before we reach business recovery is uncertain. In fact, we may never return to the level of normalcy we knew prior to the global pandemic. As the reopening process begins in certain areas of the U.S. (e.g. the Southeast) and other regions are still weeks if not months away from opening up, businesses are strategizing on how to ensure a safe and comfortable workplace for their teams upon their return.
Federal guidance recommends a phased approach and leaves it up to each state to implement. The process is undoubtedly fluid as data and trends are shifting day to day. Therefore, employers have to be nimble in their approach and strategically plan for the safety and wellbeing of their employees as they make their return to the office—and ultimately, their road to recovery.
According to the White House Guidelines for Reopening America, restarting the economies, getting people back to work and continuing to protect lives is of utmost importance. That’s why communication is key to building the right plan of preparedness. I thought it was crucial to discuss some tips for how to do so. Take look at the 3 Points of Guidance for Employers Planning their Office Return Strategy below.
- Align with community readiness.
The timing of a business’ reopening plans must comply with that of the community and in accordance with Federal, State, and local regulations and guidance. Much of this is dependent upon a decline in COVID cases, testing availability and other local factors. Only when this criterion has been met is it appropriate to initiate any type of return. For businesses with multiple locations, the reopening will likely need to be staggered and not synchronized. This is where, as employers, you must show your agility and keep monitoring and adjusting your reopening plans as necessary.
- Give proper notice to your employees.
For non-essential businesses, planning to have your teams return to an office setting after an extended period working from home will require a high-level of empathy and understanding. That’s why from a communications perspective you will need to develop and provide instruction well ahead of time. Employees will need to plan their return into the workplace from both a logistical and a mental health perspective. After working from home for a prolonged period, they may be anxious about their return into the office. They may also need to organize personal matters such as childcare arrangements. Workers will likely have to return in waves. Therefore, it’s critical to adopt best practices and seek out new ideas so this process is handled with care and the employees are welcomed into a safe and healthy workplace.
- Ready your workplace.
The look of the once typical office setting is now likely forever changed. Be sure you are prepared with the social distancing standards and protective equipment necessary to properly receive your employees returning to the workplace. Keep in mind you may need to order supplies such as cleaners and disinfectants, face masks, gloves, thermometers and plexiglass shields well ahead of time. There have been major delays in shipping as a result of the prolonged modified workforce. You also may need to reconfigure seating to align with proper social distancing measures. And, you may need to close or block off high-traffic or common areas. Be sure you consider any vulnerable workers such as those with underlying health conditions or those who are pregnant and be prepared to allow them to continue working remotely. Lastly, be mindful of documenting sensitive information related to COVID-19 and be sure to maintain the same privacy protocols you would for any other health-related matter. Do not share any personally identifiable information regarding a person’s travel history, symptoms, diagnoses or anything related.
Have other important information to share with businesses making their road to recovery? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.