How Businesses Can Reopen Offices and Return to Worksites in 3 Careful Stages
As states relax shutdown orders, here are the stages of reopening that protect your customers, employees, and business.
Spring 2020 could be called “The Global Office Vacany” as offices and other workplaces went dark during the pandemic’s initial wave.
A majority of employed Americans have been working from home--62 percent according to a recent Gallup survey, a figure that doubled from mid-March to early April. Even if the rate of remote virtual working continues to boom, many business owners have and are facing the difficulties in job management while trying to develop strategic plans for bringing employess back into the office. Some employees have moved across the country and even across the world to be with their family during the uncertain times that were faced during COVID-19.
As a business owner, maybe you’d like to start bringing your employees back. Or maybe you’re wondering why you should, considering rampant predictions about the “end of the office” as we know it. So how can business owner and managers reestablish work in the office and create an effective and clean environment for employees to return? The reality is that many workers still are counting on returning to the office. The Gallup survey also found 41 percent of those currently working from home eventually would like to return to their worksites. What’s more, you’re part of a business community that relies on its neighbors to sustain a thriving local economy. Workers populating metro downtowns and other business districts help support an interconnected network--restaurants, retail, and an endless variety of services. These stages aren’t necessarily a one-way road. Depending on local infection rates or other factors, you may need to move back a stage or two and restore restrictions to keep your employees safe.
WHEN When analyzing COVID-19 data to make the best decisions based on public-health projections, track the running seven-day average of infection rate to clarify a steady trend and filter out the noise of volatile daily statistics, Farley says. Use reliable sources such as worldometers.info or Johns Hopkins University. One business leader and Principal client, with both rural and urban offices, recently asked during an interview on worksite reopening: Can we send our employees back to the worksite in good faith if they rely on a train or other mass transit? Include these complicated factors--some beyond your direct control--in your return-to-worksite checklist.
HOW Nearly every business must restrict or otherwise direct traffic flow to ensure less risk of virus spread. That may mean the open floorplans and shared desks of the trendy modern office are history. A retailer can direct shoppers one way through aisles and mandate socially distanced checkout lines. Office lobbies can remove coffee-table books or snacks to reduce common surfaces. But routine virus testing or contact tracing at work are more elaborate steps that not even major employers have fully figured out. Monitor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources for guidance.
WHO Worksites won’t repopulate as fast as they were vacated. Prioritize crucial staff and then also offer a stage when return to the worksite is voluntary. From there, try things like splitting teams or shifts to reduce worksite density. An acknowledgement agreement (Word) for employees, customers, and visitors to sign could be a useful resource to help protect your worksite against reinfection. It raises awareness of risk factors and helps remind everybody to take all necessary precautions.
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