The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do business, live our lives, and travel. As restrictions start to lift, many businesses are ready to get their employees back to work.
If you’re preparing to reopen your doors, it’s important to understand how to make the transition easier for everyone involved.
Read on for some tips and tricks to creating a healthy, positive workplace culture that will make everyone happy to return to work in the office yet again.
Preparing Your Workplace for Reopening
Before calling employees back to the office, it’s crucial to make sure you’re fully prepared and sure that you’ve created a safe environment for all. The CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created helpful guidelines to inform employers about how best to reopen their places of business.
Aside from what the CDC recommends, you should also follow the guidance of your local and state health departments. Make sure that your local community is allowing businesses to open again, and check to be sure that you’re following all of the proper protocols.
One of the most important things to do is to ensure that you’re in compliance with the latest state and local orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and business operations. The goal is to not only do everything legally but to also provide your employees with a safe place to work.
If you’re confident that you are doing everything within the recommended guidelines, you can begin to work on preparing your place of business to host employees and customers again. Check the CDC website frequently to make sure you’re aware of the newest updates in terms of sanitizing your office and practicing the right safety procedures.
Promoting a Clean and Healthy Place of Business
One of the toughest components of getting everyone back to work is convincing your employees that it’s safe to do so. While there’s no guarantee that someone won’t come down with COVID-19, there are still things everyone can do to mitigate the spread.
First, make sure that everyone is following proper hygiene practices such as thoroughly washing their hands after preparing food and using the restroom. Stock all of the restrooms in the building with plenty of antibacterial soap, disposable hand towels, and cleaning supplies. Face masks should also be worn, particularly in small offices or anywhere you’re dealing with customers and clients face to face.
Consider ramping up your cleaning procedures and disinfect all surfaces every day. Provide employees with disinfecting wipes so they can clean off their desks, chairs, file cabinets, and keyboards. Anything that is nonporous and frequently touched by human hands should be disinfected on a regular basis.
When possible, encourage social distancing and try to keep employees at a distance of at least six feet apart. You can move desks further apart or install some kind of physical partition or barrier between desks and workstations.
If you have a lot of employees working within a small space, it might be time to rethink how your workers perform their daily tasks. Consider allowing some people to work from home permanently, and cancel any non-essential travel whenever you can.
Returning Back to Work in a Changing World
With so many new guidelines in place and ever-changing headlines, the coronavirus is making major waves for employees and businesses of all kinds. To ensure a positive workplace culture, there are a few things you can do to make some adjustments to your physical workspace.
If you’re able, consider changing employee work schedules to an alternating or weekly rotating basis. For example, have some people come into the office on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and others come in on Tuesday and Thursday.
Any changes made should also be clearly written in an updated employee handbook. Make sure that your employees are fully aware of these changes, and keep an open-door policy so people know they can come to you and others in the HR department if they have concerns or questions.
Before people go back to work, they want to know that you’re doing everything possible to provide them with a safe environment. Encourage people to telework whenever it’s possible. so they can stay home and accomplish their daily tasks without the risk of transmitting or getting the coronavirus.
You might have to close off parts of your office where employees normally congregate, such as conference rooms and break room areas. If that is not feasible, come up with a plan to reconfigure these areas so that they’re more adept to encourage social distancing.
Consider removing extra chairs and then place all remaining chairs in breakrooms and lunchrooms six feet apart. Mark the floors with signs or brightly colored tape to help serve as a guide for proper social distancing.
If your office has a lot of long hallways, encourage your employees to walk in separate one-way “lanes” to keep people from facing each other as they pass. Make lunch and other breaks safe by adding an outdoor patio area if you’re able to do so. This will encourage your employees to take their breaks outside when the weather permits.
Customer Interaction Tips
Aside from preparing your employees to come back to work, you should also prep for customers and clients who may need to visit your place of business. Make sure you have adequate hand sanitizing stations placed in the lobby, conference rooms, and restrooms.
Offer to take the temperature of customers as long as they feel comfortable. This can offer people a sense of security knowing that people are being checked before they come inside.
Schedule meetings well in advance, and keep in-person meetings limited to a few people rather than a large group. You should also consider upgrading your current teleconferencing equipment and encourage people to meet via webcam or telephone rather than in-person whenever they can.
If you have a lot of packages, make it easy for your delivery drivers to drop off and pick up all packages outside. This will reduce the amount of in-person contact your employees have with the delivery drivers and vice versa.
As things slowly return to normal, getting back to work may look a bit different than it once did. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a positive workplace culture and a healthy environment where everyone enjoys what they do.
Keep on top of the latest CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting workplaces, businesses, and public spaces. Create a comprehensive plan and develop protocols for everyone to follow so there’s no room for confusion.
Remember to keep an open mind when it comes to reopening your business. Some employees could still be hesitant to return or they could be in a high-risk group, so it’s very important to be conscious of their concerns and their individual needs.
Take some time to look at how your place of business operates, then come up with new ways to do things in a safer, healthier way. Remain vigilant about disinfecting things like doorknobs, tables, light switches, and desks. Have carpeting and window coverings professionally cleaned and sanitized frequently.
Depending on where you live, your jurisdiction may require the use of face masks by the general public. These rules could also apply to employees, so make sure that you have plenty of face masks available at all times. If you allow your employees to wear their own, make sure they’re still following the local guidelines.
Monitor your employees and require anyone who feels sick to stay at home. Alter your sick leave policy to be as flexible as possible, and make sure that anyone who does exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 gets tested.
If someone in your place of employment tests positive for coronavirus, be sure that you have a plan in place for how to cope. Always keep the lines of communication open, and avoid making employees feel ashamed or embarrassed if they have positive test results.
Get to know your local health authorities and find a point of contact you can reach out to if you have questions. With the right plans in place, going back to work in the office should be a relatively seamless process.
The New Normal
Although COVID-19 is a serious virus, it’s important that businesses and employees are able to come back to work when they’re ready. Use this guide to help you make sound decisions and plan ahead so you can provide a safe and healthy working environment for all.
Remember to practice these same guidelines yourself and lead by example. With a positive attitude and a few easy changes, you can carry on with business as usual.
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