2020 is a year that generations unborn will talk about, read in schools, and discuss in organisations. State governments had had to force business owners during spring, to bring a halt to business activities to curb the spread of the ravaging coronavirus. But then, many small businesses have gradually reopened during summer. As work returns, it is crucial for you as business owners to consider ways to make your workplace safer for new and returning employees.
According to a poll by the United States Chamber of Commerce and MetLife, 86% of small businesses have partially or fully opened for regular business activity. The result of the poll also reveals that about 70% of the respondents are wary of financial strain caused by the closures of businesses for a prolonged period, while over 58% are worried that their businesses would be shut permanently. In fact, research organization, Opportunity Insights disclosed that small businesses experienced a drop in revenue by 19.1% between 20th January and 9th August, 2020.
However, reopening businesses while the pandemic is still on pose a wide range of challenges to business owners and corporations. And one of the leading issues is how to get employees who are sceptical of the situation of things to resume work and also give their best to work. Another challenging thing is specific decisions that businesses should make and procedures to put in place to make your workplace safer for new and returning employees.
If your business must thrive in a time like this, then it is of utmost importance that you should put protocols in place to ensure that your workers and clients or customers are safe from the coronavirus.
Address These Employee Concerns
There are widespread reasons why employees will not be willing to return to work due to the pandemic. The foremost reason is the fear of contracting the disease. Any feeling of illness would arouse suspicion. And they do not also want to spread the virus to their loved ones. Hence, it is vital that these concerns are given careful attention as a business owner.
Child care is the second concern. Since the pandemic became more intense, issues related to child care have become compounded for employees who are also parents. Schools in many areas have had to switch to virtual learning for the safety of children. A wide number of child care providers have limited their activity significantly while others are temporarily shut. This has led to school children staying back home instead of being under the supervision of their teachers in school.
It is important that businesses carefully strategize their reopening, to meet the needs of their employees and customers. They should also understand the adjustments and steps they must take in the process of reopening. Businesses should consider taking these steps to ensure a safer workplace.
Update Your Knowledge Of State Rules
The first thing your should do towards reopening your business with safety measures put in place is to educate yourself and acquire every necessary information about the coronavirus and state of the pandemic from reliable sources such as, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others.
You should educate yourself on what exactly this ravaging virus is, the mode of spreading, and how it can be controlled from spreading. Every state have laid down guidelines for reopening, get yourself acquainted with that of your state. The rules and guidelines given in each state are not the same, so it is important to know what is required in your own state.
In some states, face covering is a necessity at workplaces, but not in others. The Center for Disease Control has made guidance that applies to owners of restaurants and bars available while also providing measures to cut down on the risk of contracting coronavirus. OSHA on the other hand has placed more focus on businesses that proffer curbside pickup or takeout, while also offering guidance to beverage distributors and restaurants.
Identify Potential Threats And The Ways To Reduce Their Effects
Be able to identify things and situations that can pose hazards or as threat to the health of your employees and yourself. Hazards that could get your employees exposed to the virus vary, and have so much to do with the tasks being carried out by your employees. OSHA has been able to give guidance on ranking how possible it is for workers to become vulnerable and exposed to the virus. This is largely based on their level of contact with other people.
For instance, health workers are at greater risk of being exposed to the virus. Grocery store clerks are to medium risks, while remote workers have very low risk. By being able to consider how your employees interact, who they interact with, and how frequent they interact, you will be able to evaluate the possibility of your workers being vulnerable. Well, except workers who are engaged in the healthcare sector, it is very likely that your workers are either of the low or medium risk category.
Put up a clear rule that sick employees must stay back at home. They are potential hazards of the coronavirus. After identifying these threats, find ways to reduce their risks. Some general rules are keeping proper hygiene, social distancing, use of face masks, routine health checks, and effective sanitation.
Update Your Business Plan
Do an update of your business plan which is expected to reflect the new changes that would be made to your budget in addressing issues connected to the pandemic at your workplace. Ensure to have the concerns of your employees in place when planning. For example, you provide a remote work option or a flexible schedule to resolve the issue of employees’ child care worries.
Some of the measures you’ll be putting in place may require some extra expenses. For instance, you could provide your employees with face masks, some work distancing, and provide plexiglass shields to separate your workers’ work stations. The other changes may impact on your revenue. An instance is cutting down on the number of customers physically present at your company per time or up to 50%. Check this to create a business plan
Communicate Your Plan To Employees
Your employees are key players in your company, hence should be carried along with your plans towards making work safer for them and everyone else. Explain the exact steps you’ll be taking to effect your plans, including roles they are to play in making the plan a success.
When your employees are carried along with your plans for their own safety, it would help them allay their fears of contracting the dreaded virus at work. The CDC suggests that multiple channels should be employed to educate workers about preventive measures against COVID-19. Consider conveying your messages clearly and in the preferred language of your employees through channel options such as bulletin boards, text messages, group meetings, videos, letters, and social media
You can communicate your plans to your customers through advertisements, organisation’s social media platforms, press releases, and your company website. You should also find out the specific concerns of your customers over the pandemic, and provide relevant communications that addresses each concern over the situation. Listen to them when they talk about it.
Keeping an hygienic environment is one of the top measures to prevent the spread of viruses. Hence it is very important that you consider cleaning and disinfecting your work environment regularly.
Ensure that general cleaning routine is carried out using soap, water, and disinfectants on surfaces. This will go a long way to decrease the possibilities of surfaces retaining the virus, and will significantly cut down on the risk of your employees being exposed to the novel virus. On disinfectants, Dr Harris says that employers can make use of any disinfectant that is approved by the EPA as an effective measure against the virus.
You’ll find a list of designated disinfectants on the EPA’s website, and it includes several widely used household items such as Lysol All Purpose Cleaner, and Clorox Bleach. Dr Harris also suggested that employees should put more focus on cleaning common areas and aspects that receive the more foot traffic.
Everyone knows that the essence of lockdowns was to put people apart and prevent person-to-person transmission of the virus. Your employees know this too. In essence, you must put measures in place in that way to show your seriousness in protecting them. An effective measure is to keep people at about six feet apart from one another.
Consider these practices to obey social distancing rule:
- Increase the distance between workstations and use plexiglass partitions as a way of separating them.
- Make use of flexible schedules and worksites so that your workers can work staggered shifts or telecommute.
- Rearrange commonly harnessed areas so that your workers can work six feet distanced from one another.
- Reduce the population of customers within work premises per-time. You can also consider marking the floor with tapes at every six feet distance.
- Ensure that your customers, workers, and others who make use of your company’s vicinity are regularly on the approved face masks.
- Provide a curbside pickup or install a drive-through window.
- Consider virtual meetings inplace of in-person meetings.
Instruct Sick Employees Not To Show Up For Work
All sick employees must stay back at home. Any sign of sickness if potential COVID-19 threat. And this would get others worried if decisive measures are not taken towards it. Any worker with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate until they are deemed fit by the CDC to return to work. This would mean that they stay back home until after ten days since they first had the symptom. In addition, they should not nurse a fever for a whole day without first taking medications that reduce the fever.
Do Appropriate Checks and Testing
You can use antibody tests to do checks for any previous infection, virus tests to uncover active infections, temperature checks, and symptom surveys. Chief Innovation Officer and Associate Medical Director for WorkCare, Dr. Anthony Harris recommended during a phone interview with The Balance that employers should carry out baseline and antibody testing of all their workers before finally reopening for business.
He also advised that workers under periodic testing and checks of their employees even while business operations are back. Dr. Harris added that symptom surveys and temperature checks should be carried out everyday. He also said that any employee with fever or COVID-19 symptoms should return home.
Enforce The Use Of Personal Protective Equipment
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all employers should make personal protective equipment (PPE) available for their workers – whether in medium, or high-risk industries- to cut down on the possibility of being exposed to the virus. But then, the kind you use is dependent on the industry you are and the kind of work individual employees carry out.
A worker with a medium exposure risk may be needing to put on gloves, face masks, and/or goggles or face shields. The CDC suggests that restaurants and bars should make it mandatory for workers to wear cloth face coverings, as they are efficient in preventing the spread of the novel virus. The equipment should also be regularly washed using bleach solutions and dried under high heat.
Implement and Monitor Your Plan
The final step on how to make your workplace safer for new and returning employees is to implement your safety and reopening plans and also monitor the procedures and the results. As your business kicks off again, ensure to regularly check on your workers, vendors, customers, and other players of your business often. Hear their position on the measures taken and adjust when necessary. Also ensure to carry them along with changes made, and do it transparently.