08 Jun Reopening Your Office Doors – Post COVID-19
As many states begin the complicated process of “reopening”, business leaders are considering what exactly that looks like for their organizations. Many have transitioned to a work-from-home model during lock down – and have realized that most office work can be successfully conducted at home. Some businesses have already decided to move to a fully remote workforce even after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
But that won’t work for everyone. There will be businesses and offices that will NEED to reopen, that MUST reopen, and measures need to be taken to do it safely. If you’re a business leader who’s made the difficult decision to call your employees back into the office, we’ve put together several steps for you. Some of these changes may seem small but your employees will acknowledge the effort and be thankful you’re making decisions with their best interests in mind.
You will absolutely need to increase and ensure sanitation in your office.
You’ve heard it before: provide employees with plenty of antibacterial wipes, soap, and hand sanitizer. Build extra time into the day for employees to clean their workstations and any shared office equipment. Talk to the building manager about extra steps their teams are taking. How are they increasing cleanliness standards? Are they instituting temperature checks? How can you support these moves? Whatever the plan, it must be well documented, well communicated (including to your employees) and enforced.
Require a mask.
Even better, provide them to your staff. You can require them to bring their own, but providing them sends the right message to your team, helps ensure compliance and will go a long way in keeping everyone healthy.
Relax your attendance policies.
Establish flexible schedules where it makes sense, set clear expectations but keep those lines of communication open. Let your teams know they must stay home if they are ill. With job security at the top of many minds right now employees may be nervous to stay home in fear for their jobs. Consider adding to existing PTO for employees. However, illness may not be the only thing keeping your people at home. With most schools and daycare centers closed, childcare is a real issue. Be open, be flexible and be as supportive as possible.
Consider shared space or resources. Break rooms, printers, copiers, and shared workstations all need rethinking. Encourage employees to bring small, personal refrigerators or coolers to keep at their desks to cut down on break room traffic. Invest in several small all-in-one printers/copiers to decrease crowds around these shared machines. Stagger teams’ return or times within the office to manage flow.
What if some employees aren’t comfortable returning to the office?
Think through the issue. Is your employee’s concern unique, reasonable? Maybe she has symptoms of COVID-19? Maybe he lives with a loved one with a compromised immune system, or he has one himself? Be willing to make reasonable accommodations. If work can be done remotely, then allow them to continue doing so. If that’s not possible, check to see if you can help arrange a leave of absence. And what if none of these “reasons” apply? What if people are just uncomfortable coming back to work? Communicate the changes you have made and be creative, suggest a staggered work schedule or an isolated workstation. You could consider providing hazard pay: a temporary increase in pay to compensate for putting the workers who are asked to physically come back into the office.
Finally, be sure you are taking advantage of all the Federal Government has put in place to protect businesses and their employees. There are countless solutions out there! You will need to be creative, flexible and steady in your approach. We will see fundamental changes in the world around us and being part of a thoughtful solution will help keep your teams happy, healthy and productive.
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