The shutdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak has not been easy for anyone.
Millions of Americans are unemployed, businesses have closed their doors, and stress and anxiety are on the rise. Some businesses are faced with a tough choice: prolong economic suffering, or reopen at the risk of exposing employees and the general public to this terrible virus.
As new case growth slows in the United States, many organizations that went virtual or shut down entirely are now considering a re-entry. In many cities and states, it’s simply too soon, but for companies in less affected areas, a planned, cautious re-entry might be necessary.
Without the right plan, a sudden re-entry could cause another wave of new cases and prolong stay-at-home orders. Because of this, it’s vital that companies assess the risks, learn strategies to mitigate risk, and ultimately come to a decision that is right for their communities, their employees, and their customers.
Because of this need, we’ve created two new training videos that will help leaders and employees understand what safe re-entry entails. Click here to gain free access to these videos!
Here are a few of our tips for leading an effective workforce re-entry!
Create a COVID-19 Task Force
There are many interests within your organization that must be considered. Leadership priorities must be balanced against the concerns of your managers and your individual contributors, and one effective way to balance these needs is through a task force, consisting of key stakeholders.
By following this strategy, leaders can hear the concerns of your frontline employees, and managers can understand the concerns of higher leaders. These conversations help everyone come to an agreement for the priorities that are right for your organization.
You can also likely reach out to local health departments to help your task force come to the right decision.
Using evidence-based reasoning and coming to a consensus will help your organization smoothly transition back to the workplace.
Benchmark Hospitality provides a prime example of how to create a thorough and safe re-entry plan, using online learning tools to educate their workforce. Read the case study here.
Develop an Infection Control Policy
If you and your teams decide that re-entry is a good next step, you should prepare an infection control policy before opening. No matter what you decide, the presence of an infection control policy will change the way your organization does business.
Here are some things to consider as you develop your infection control policy:
- How will you change processes so that employees can maintain six feet of distance?
- Will you require masks? Studies show that wearing masks is a highly effective way to reduce virus transmission.
- If you have a brick and mortar store, what is your capacity so that customers can reasonably maintain six feet of distance?
There are more questions you should answer, and the answers will be dependent on your organization and the unique situation you find yourself in.
Working with your COVID-19 task force to answer these questions and develop a policy that prioritizes safety while still allowing business to occur in some form is an important and necessary step for a successful re-open.
Examine the Risk for Each Employee
COVID-19 affects everyone differently. Perhaps most notably are how the disease effects those with underlying health conditions and people over 50. Some of your employees are at a high risk, and their needs must be considered as well.
According to the CDC, there are several underlying conditions that will increase the risk of mortality by COVID-19. These risks include:
- Chronic kidney disease, treated by dialysis
- Chronic lung disease
- Blood disorders affecting hemoglobin
- Being immunocompromised
- Liver disease
- Heart conditions
- Severe obesity
The list of people at risk is lengthy, and it may surprise you how common many of these conditions are.
If you know of employees who are at risk, or if employees express concerns over their risk, empathize with them, and offer special accommodations.
Often, their job can be done remotely, or they can take leave. However you accommodate your at-risk employees, it’s vital that you account for them in your re-entry plan.
Stagger Re-Entry on a Case by Case Basis
Many jobs can be done remotely, and there’s no need to rush employees back into a brick and mortar workplace if that’s the case. Allowing virtual work will make it easier to socially distance, and allow you to focus on the employees who must be in a physical workplace to do their jobs.
Employees who have had COVID-19 symptoms, are waiting on results of a test, or have tested positive should obviously remain at home until a period of 14 days without symptoms has passed. If you can, limit the amount of people in your workplace. Consider this: roughly one out of every 200 people in the United States have had or currently have a confirmed case of COVID-19. Gathering 50 people or more into a workplace increases the likelihood that one of those people is infected and could spread it to others.
In 2014, researchers put a harmless virus on a doorknob in an office. By the end of the day, 50% of the surfaces in that office were found to have the virus present on them.
Viruses spread quickly, and that’s what makes this one so dangerous. Limiting gatherings and only having employees come into the workplace when it’s essential will go a long way in slowing the spread, and help everyone get back to normal quickly.
Quarantine is not fun for anyone, and many people are suffering mentally, physically, and financially. We hope this article helps you to thoroughly assess the risks involved, and to get plans in place for how to safely re-open your workplace.