The coronavirus pandemic forced many businesses out of their offices and into the world of remote working. Now that some are preparing for the transition back to shared spaces, safety is critical—and your customers are expecting you to get it right. In addition to following any applicable federal, state and local rules, you can help adapt your workplace to the new reality with these five tips.
“Back to work” doesn’t mean “back to normal”
While different industries may require unique considerations, all business owners should prepare to take workplace safety a lot more seriously. Here’s how:
- Gear up.
When your employees use personal protective gear such as fabric masks, they’re not only keeping themselves safe—they’re also helping to ensure the safety of customers, vendors and anyone else they come into contact with. If you can, provide this gear directly to employees. If that’s not possible, encourage employees to bring their own from home.
Tip:The effectiveness of personal protective gear increases with proper hygiene. Reusable masks should always be washed after use. If gloves are part of your gear, they should only be used for specific purposes (e.g., handling money), then immediately disposed of. For general purposes, frequently washed ungloved hands are more likely to prevent contamination.
- Clean up.
Cleaning in the time of COVID-19 is serious business. When establishing your new cleaning regimen and schedule, consider the flow of traffic in your workplace. Identify the most frequently touched surfaces for even more regular cleanings throughout the day.
Think about barriers in the workplace too. If your business involves frequent customer contact, consider installing protective shields. If you use credit card machines, consider covering them with disposable plastic. Read more about how to clean and disinfect card readers and point-of-sale equipment.
Tip: Post your new practices, and place disinfectant in high-use areas. These are visible reminders to employees and can help give customers peace of mind to know that you’re making cleanliness a priority.
- Split up.
The fewer people in a room, the easier it is to maintain social distance. If possible, stagger the return of your workforce. Phase employees back one group at a time. Evaluate the layout and space between employee workstations.
As you go forward, think about how adjusting your business hours could help reduce employee overlap. Consider whether establishing employee cohorts that operate on different schedules could work for your business.
Tip: Distance isn’t just for your employees. If you have customers in your space, be sure there’s enough room for them to keep 6 feet apart. Consider limiting the number of customers allowed in your space at one time, or create an outdoor area for pickups.
- Ease up.
Whether it’s homeschooling, caring for an ill loved one or something else, employees are likely dealing with an unusual number of outside demands right now. Flexibility and understanding will be more important than ever. And with health care providers already overwhelmed, reconsider any policies that require a doctor’s note for sick leave.
Tip: Know the signs. Fever is a common symptom of COVID-19. Consider taking employees’ temperatures as they enter the workplace every day. Also remember that people with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic. If your employees call in sick because they’ve been exposed to someone with the virus, trust them to make that decision.
- Train up
Your policies are helpful only if they’re practiced. Make sure that all your employees are clear on your updated cleaning and hygiene policies—preventing the spread of COVID-19 requires attention and dedication from the whole team.
Tip: In addition to posting policies, hold virtual training sessions before employees return to prepare them for what’s expected.
Ultimately, the health of your business rests on the health of your employees and customers. By taking the time to prepare today, you can help ensure that both your business and your people stay strong when it’s time to reopen your doors.
This article is only for educational purposes, and the reader should consult the appropriate authorities and professional advice prior to taking any action recommended.