Preparing to Get Back to Work
The phrase, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” comes to mind when contemplating re-opening workplaces amidst the continued threat of COVID-19. It’s going to be different for everyone. While the federal government has issued guidelines for three phases of re-opening, when you reach each phase will depend upon the state, and perhaps even the county, in which you do business.
The federal guidelines center around three main areas: symptoms, cases and hospitals. The data concerning each of these areas will be closely analyzed for a downward trajectory across a 14 day period. There are three phases. Within each phase, the data analyzed across separate 14 day periods includes:
- Number of people with recorded symptoms
- Actual number of COVID-19 cases reported/tested
- Statistics on whether or not hospitals have the capacity to treat Coronavirus patients without being in a crisis care mode. Another requirement for hospitals is the ability to provide testing for its healthcare workers.
To enter phase one, and then move on to phases two and three, each of the areas listed above must decrease across a 14 day period with no evidence of a rebound. If all goes well, completion of all three phases could take as little as 6-8 weeks. That may be optimistic however. It will also vary widely by location.
While the timeline is uncertain, one of the best things you can do to prepare your business for re-opening is to create a preparedness plan. As we move toward re-opening, businesses have a responsibility to give consideration to social distancing, PPE, temperature checks, sanitation/disinfection, travel policies and anything related to keeping employees safe and conducting business safely. A preparedness plan is simply taking a thoughtful approach to implementing these safety measures, and assigning an individual or team to own the process.
Each businesses’ preparedness plan will vary depending upon individual business needs. Here are some recommendations to consider as you build yours:
- Designate a Response Team – this can be a larger or small group depending on your resources. The people on this team will have ownership of the plan and will be tasked with coordinating your re-opening plans.
- Policies and Procedures Review – you have likely created new policies and procedures over the last few weeks and months. Do you need to make any revisions? Are any new policies needed? Or are you at a point where you can go back to previous policies or procedures? Establish policies on what happens if an employee tests positive for COVID-19. The CDC has published guidelines on what to do if one of your workers has COVID-19. These guidelines will help you determine when that employee should be allowed to return to work.
- Workplace Safety – what needs to be done to mitigate risk for employees coming into the workplace? These may include PPE, health screenings, sanitizing the workplace, visitors, etc. Educate employees on how to protect themselves at work and at home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- Social Distancing – what logistics must be considered within your workplace in order to maintain social distancing? Is teleworking part of the equation?
- Staffing Needs – you may have furloughed or laid off folks. What does that look like in the short term vs. the long term? Do you need to look at outside services to address these issues?
- Build a Cross Functional Team – This team should be made up of people who have the bandwidth to participate in aligning all the necessary policies and procedures and can maintain the plan. A cross functional group of subject matter experts representing many areas of your company (such as HR, legal and building management) who have influence and insight into the business will be better equipped to make informed decisions.
- Communicate the Plan – Be sure that all the work you’re putting into your preparedness plan is actually communicated out to your employees. They will appreciate the effort and clear communication builds goodwill and trust.
The most important facet of the preparedness plan is that is meets your company’s specific needs. No two companies will have the same plan. The key is committing to and owning your plan.
Here are a number of resources your Response Team may find helpful as they solidify your plans for getting back to work:
- The CDC has published recommendations specifically for small businesses on how to prepare your business and employees for the effects of COVID-19.
- The CDC also offers Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to COVID-19.
- OSHA has published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
- The OSHA COVID-19 webpage offers information specifically for workers and employers about the evolving coronavirus pandemic.