By Barbara Semeniuk, 2020
Business structure and protocols are continuing to change in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic. As some businesses are reopening, they must make decisions about bringing employees back onsite, letting them operate remotely, or creating a hybrid model. State guidelines, business size, and work functionality are factors involved in determining the best and safest way to operate. Pre-existing conditions and the health and safety of individual employees can create additional precautionary measures. Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Every business must refer to state and local laws to be certain they are permitted to reopen and remain open. It is necessary to have a temperature screening with noncontact thermometers or thermal cameras upon entry to your facility. Anyone with a fever of 100.4 or more must follow new protocols created by human resources to be taken to a quarantine area, given self-quarantine information, and sent home.
Office spaces must be reconfigured to allow for social distancing requirements, new traffic patterns, and rotating work schedules to minimize the number of people on-site at any given time. Companies with their own supply chain must address delivery procedures, drivers, vehicles, warehouse operations, and contact with paper contracts and invoices. These changes can be made systematically, with a checklist in place to monitor progress before reopening.
The CDC’s Resuming Business Toolkit provides non-healthcare employers with a checklist to follow to help maintain a healthy work environment and slow the spread of the virus. It helps design initial processes for training employees and keeps them informed of new regulations as they change.
Protect employees from illness
- Provide resources to employees with updated information on CDC guidelines for actions on COVID-19 prevention and exposure
- Encourage employees who are feeling symptoms of COVID-19 to stay at home
- Follow the CDC-recommended precautions for employees who have COVID-19 or an infected family member
- Develop a plan for disinfecting frequently touched items before and after shifts
- Assess shared work stations, implement a plan for disinfecting furniture, phones, and equipment between employee shifts
- Use six-foot social distancing when applicable
- Require face masks upon entering the building
- Discourage close contact and handshaking
- Develop temperature screenings
Be flexible and supportive to employees and their families
- Follow sick leave practices based on state and federal guidelines
- Notify employees that they may take care of a sick family member or a child at home due to school closures without penalty
- Allow options for higher-risk employees to work from home or modify activities to reduce exposure to other employees or customers
- Cross-train employees in preparation for absences
Reduce travel for conferences and meetings
- Determine whether travel is essential or if videoconferencing can be implemented instead
- Plan ahead and be flexible when running virtual meetings for larger groups
- Implement and enforce six-foot distancing and face masks for any meeting that must be done in person
Follow guidelines for a clean and healthy work environment
- Reach out to building maintenance to ensure adequate ventilation and indoor air quality
- Use signage, tape, and other visual indicators for direction of travel and standing in lines
- Provide hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes near doorways and frequently touched surfaces
- Keep restrooms sanitized and stocked with soap and proper paper products
- Display posters that encourage proper hygiene, including handwashing and cough/sneeze etiquette
To find the most current updates on COVID-19, visit cdc.gov. More detailed procedures can be found for specific industries. Signage for display is also available on the website.
As state guidelines concerning COVID-19 continue to evolve, so will business operations. Understand that some of these new procedures and guidelines may become permanent. It is important for employers to encourage strong communication between employees and management to ensure the health and safety of the work environment. Develop an incident response team to monitor new protocols, and move quickly to report, investigate, and remediate instances of infection.
Much of the latest processes and precautions will be considered the new normal as we move forward. We’ve already experienced greater efficiency through technology, allowing employees to work from home. In many cases, it has become a preferred way to conduct business. Employees are more productive, save time and travel expenses, roles are reinvented, and costs for office space are reduced. Successful transitions are proving to be the best way to outpace industry competition.
As you prepare to reopen or continue operations under different circumstances, focus on innovation rather than going back to previous situations. Think of changes as improvements rather than inconveniences. We’ve made unexpected advances in a short period of time due to the pandemic and can better adapt to the future.
Resuming Business TOOLKIT Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). (2020, May 27), https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community/Resuming-Business-Toolkit.pdf
Yoder, K. (2016, September). REOPENING & OPERATING FACILITIES IN THE AGE OF COVID-19, https://www.assp.org/docs/default-source/psj-articles/bpyoder_0920.pdf?sfvrsn=6421b547_4