22 May Return To Work. Is Your Business Prepared?
As we move towards a staged reopening of the economy, there are many helpful resources for businesses in planning and preparing to reopen. California is currently in early-Stage 2 of what is referred to as the “resilience roadmap,” which is shown in the flowchart below. For a more detailed description of the roadmap you can access the State’s COVID-19 website here: https://covid19.ca.gov/roadmap/#guidance.=
Counties are beginning to move toward the second phase of stage 2, including dine-in restaurants and offices, but they must first show the state that they meet certain thresholds. While each county works toward that goal, businesses must work on getting themselves ready to open.
In accordance with state requirements, before reopening, all facilities must:
1. Perform a detailed risk assessment and implement a site-specific protection plan;
2. Train employees on how to limit the spread of COVID-19, including how to screen themselves for symptoms and stay home if they have them;
3. Implement individual control measures and screenings;
4. Implement disinfecting protocols; and
5. Implement physical distancing guidelines.
California developed 20 separate industry-specific guidelines and checklists for reopening that can be found here: https://covid19.ca.gov/industry-guidance/. The State recommends (and some counties are requiring) that businesses post the industry-specific checklists and social distancing protocols in their workplace to show customers and employees that measures have been taken to reduce risk.
I’m already working with employers on this, so if you need help creating and implementing protocols and procedures, feel free to contact me. You may also find helpful reopening guidance on the CDC website here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html?deliveryName=USCDC_2067-DM26911
Those are the facts. Now, for straight talk and other human considerations.
Let’s be honest, you will have employees who are scared to return to work. If there are underlying health conditions, that will of course need to be explored and reasonable accommodations considered. But sometimes, they are just scared. After all, regardless of any shelter in place being lifted and business needing to continue, we are still in the middle of a pandemic.
People are watching the news, researching data, some accurate and some maybe less so. Maybe they’ve lost someone they know to the virus. Even if they really miss being at work with their coworkers, they may still feel a level of uncertainty or fear.
The biggest questions I’m hearing from employees about returning to work are:
Do I have to come in? Can we continue to telework?
How will you keep us safe?
Do I have to wear a mask? Will everyone wear a mask, even visitors/customers?
What happens if I get sick? What if I have a family member who gets sick?
What if a co-worker gets sick? How will I know?
You will want to start preparing your employees now for returning to work and develop a communication strategy. They want to know their health and safety matters and they want to know what the workplace will look like and how it will operate when they return.
This process will require some flexibility and creativity on your part, as a leader and/or employer. How will you redesign your workspace to ensure >6ft of distance between people? Wherever possible, can people continue to telework? How will you train folks on your safety and disinfecting policies? Will you have staggered shifts and limitations on visitors to reduce potential exposure?
These are tough and chaotic times for everyone. You may be struggling with the logistics and financials for re-opening and moving your business forward. And just as before this pandemic struck, keeping your most valued and high performing employees engaged and motivated will be one of your keys to successfully navigating your company’s future and success.
I recommend conducting a return to work survey to gauge where people are with respect to reopening; explore their concerns, requests, and suggestions. Talk to them and involve them in the process. No one wants to feel like returning to work is something that is happening to them.
I understand that this is just another added challenge to your business and you can’t be everything to everyone. However, if you are looking minimize the concern and possible panic, empathy and communication are key. I call this Leading With Compassion. It’s how you keep morale up and your team on board with your mission and vision, and it is needed now, probably more than ever.