The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has completely changed how we live and do business in a very short period. From shutdowns to social distancing, COVID-19 has forced everyone around the globe to make drastic changes in lifestyle.
For businesses, the challenges can be even more severe. Whether your business is public-facing, like a restaurant, or a business-to-business enterprise, proper COVID-19 adjustments are critical for safety.
So how is the workplace changing with coronavirus? And what do you need to know as you go about reopening your business?
What Are Other Companies Doing to Take Precautions?
Reopening your business after a COVID-19 lockdown may take some thought and planning. For many businesses, new precautions include everything from free masks for employees to ample hand sanitizer – and that’s just for starters.
Some corporate offices are making dramatic changes to their workspaces and procedures. These changes may include repositioning cubicles to allow for 6 feet of social distancing, turning multi-stall bathrooms into a single-stall, and creating one-way corridors to avoid people jams.
Many stores are opting to require face masks even if they are not mandated by local or state law. For example, Walmart, Target, Kroger, CVS, and Walgreens have announced face mask requirements for all customers visiting their stores, regardless of laws.
While a vocal online contingent has denounced mask mandates, a recent Harris Poll survey found that 80% would prefer to do business with companies requiring face masks of employees and shoppers. Thus, while your state government may not mandate mask use, your business may want to weigh current public sentiment as well as employee safety to determine your corporate mask policy.
What Has Changed in the Workplace on a Day to Day Basis?
Your specific workplace changes due to COVID-19 will depend on your state along with its regional and local laws. Human Resource departments, health and safety teams, and corporate compliance managers all need to be on top of the constantly changing legal landscape surrounding coronavirus.
For public-facing businesses that service the general populace, special precautions need to be taken. As mentioned above, mask mandates are the most obvious safety measure for COVID-19. However, many additional precautions may be needed. For example, plexiglass might be installed to protect the front desk staff from incoming visitors.
Daily sanitation and cleaning protocols are important. Sanitizing of doorknobs and common surfaces should ideally be done at least once an hour in busy areas and public spaces.
What about daily temperature checks? While taking employee temperatures may seem like a “no brainer” on the surface, the reality is more complicated. Due to health privacy laws such as HIPAA, you could be setting up your business for legal trouble by collecting health data. Some experts recommend simply using a non-contact thermometer, such as a non-touch infrared thermometer, to quickly screen incoming employees without recording their temperatures.
How Can Employees Be Prepared?
Pre-planning is important to handle your COVID-19 reopening with the least amount of problems. Communication is key, from communicating guidelines to employees as well as customers through clear policies and proper signage.
One of the biggest pitfalls is to make assumptions about employees – including their willingness to come back to work. For some staff members, safety concerns over COVID-19 could make them resist returning to the job. This may be especially the case for employees with pre-existing conditions or who live with elderly family members.
As soon as possible, draft plans on how to deal with employees who have health or safety concerns about returning to work. Can some of them remain working from home? Can special precautions be taken? Be willing to be flexible.
Employees also may require special training on sanitation and mask-wearing. If your company is required to provide masks, how long can they be worn? Are they disposable or do they require cleaning? Can an employee choose to wear a bandana or an alternative mask to what is provided?
For stores and restaurants, employees should be trained on how to deal with customers and shoppers who refuse to follow mask protocols.
Reopening After a COVID-19 Shutdown? Don’t Forget the Personal Protective Equipment
Finally, don’t forget to stock up on cleaning and safety gear. Personal Protective Equipment or PPE is essential for improving health and safety in the workplace. Beyond masks, consider gloves, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, gloves, automatic soap dispensers, and other safety and sanitizing products. Experts recommend stocking up a month in advance in case of a spike in COVID-19 cases.
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