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Fidentity’s Workplace Reopening Guide

Fidentity’s Workplace Reopening Guide

Fidentity’s Workplace Reopening Guide

Workplace Reopening Guide – COVID-19 is a curve-ball everyone is still trying to deal with and businesses are no exceptions. As you begin to navigate a COVID business environment it’s important to take your time and develop a plan that is best suited for your business and employees. This complete guide will help you create a plan and get your company ready to operate safely.

When to Reopen Workplaces

Reopening is a hard decision to make. On one hand, we all desperately want to live a life that feels even somewhat “normal” again, but on the other hand, it’s important to make sure both you and your employees are safe and healthy. When to re-open is ultimately down to you and what you feel you have to do to keep your business operating while still following CDC guidelines. Below are a couple of the options of when you may choose to let trigger re-opening your business.

  • Once a shelter in place or stay at home order is lifted.
  • When your organization has developed a protocol plan of how employees will return to the office. This plan would cover much of what this guide gives your suggestions for later on. This includes having a plan for workspace, temperature checks, masks, common areas, and more. 
  • Your Risk Manager has assessed that the company can begin all operations again while complying with any insurance requirements and with your area’s health department requirements.
  • Only after the case numbers in your community have fallen below a certain percentage that your business has deemed acceptable.

You have to choose what level of reopening you feel comfortable with at what time. This all depends on the needs of your staff and customers and how easily and quickly you can find a way to meet those consumer needs. Continue reading to create your COVID comeback plan and be able to decide what is best for your business. 

HR’s Roles/Responsibilities 

The human resource department has always been a vital part of any business and now is definitely not an exception. In fact, HR has become a more important force in the workplace than ever as they are now tasked with helping create individual return plans for employees and making sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible with the company’s COVID policies.

The HR department needs to follow CDC and local guidelines to perform three vital tasks. They need to:

  1. Prepare the workplace ahead of time to keep staff and customers safe and reopen with the confidence of the public behind the company. The last thing any business wants is to be on the news for being linked to a COVID outbreak.
  2. Make new policies clear and communicate them upfront
  3. Make sure there are communication routes in place for both employees and customers to discuss their safety concerns and considerations with you. 

Educate your Staff

It is important to make sure your staff is knowledgeable about how to keep themselves safe. As a company you should provide accurate information about the pandemic to your employees. Make sure all your decisions are based in fact.  Making sure your employees have the latest information may help encourage them to take the virus and the companies policies surrounding it as seriously as possible. 

Change is scary and a workplace plan to deal with COVID is most likely going to involve a lot of change. Communicate your plans with employees before they come back to the office. If possible try to film a tour of what the office will now look like. Small things like this can make your employees feel less nervous and shocked when they return to the office. 

Identify Your Employees’ Needs

Once you decide who will return to the office and who will continue work from home, consider factors that might be a potential threat for returning employees. This means implementing flexible policies that can be altered based on an employee’s needs.

These can be things like, allowing an employee to continue working remotely if they have children at home that need to be taken care of during the day. Or if they believe someone is at high-risk for contamination and prefer to work remotely. Or even if they don’t have access to a non-public way of transportation. It’s important to be lenient at these times, as taking a risk might harm you, your business, and your employees. 

Prepare Your Workspace For Reopening

Modifying Your Floor Plan

Reorganize the floor plan to maximize a 6-foot distance between employees, customers, and visitors. Ask yourself questions like, what space is essential for business? Are there any space areas we don’t use very often? Implementing small modifications will help control the spread of the virus and smooth out the process of returning back to the office. Below is a list of areas to consider when modifying your floor plan:

  • Determine if common areas can be reallocated for an individual workstation 
  • Will employees be assigned a workstation or have open seating
  • Establish open/closed floors on alternate days
  • Isolate rooms for employees that show symptoms while at work
  • Place plexiglass in public areas like at the reception, workstations, etc. 
  • Spread out individual workstations or leave every other workstation vacant
  • Place signs on the floor to mark where to stand/walk  

Guidelines for Reduced Contact

Employees should always be keeping their distance from each other. Of course this means, not having any personal contact with one another. Limit any hand shaking, hugging, or meeting in a closed area as much as possible. If a situation occurs where you must shake hands or meet in a closed area, be sure to disinfect yourself after the contact and wear personal protective equipment during the contact to reduce transmission. Post no-contact rules around the office to remind employees to follow them.

Minimal Contact Shifts 

To limit the amount of employees in the office at a time, it might not be practical to have a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday anymore. Instead, stagger employee’s shifts to control the capacity of the office so it’s easier to maintain social distancing between employees. This can be done by alternating employees weekly, daily, or hourly. To get a step-by-step understanding, read the guide below:

  • Identify the work that is essential for business
  • Identify the minimum amount of employees needed in the office to perform that work 
  • Identify when the work needs to be completed
  • Create a staggered shift schedule that alternates between weeks, days, or hours 
  • Assign a small group of employees per shift 
  • Implement shift work

Eliminate the Opportunities for Gatherings

According to the CDC, even holding small in-person gatherings is putting people at risk to some extent. Refer to your state and local guidelines for exactly how many people it’s safe to congregate with. It is HR’s responsibility to eliminate opportunities for employees to gather together. Here are some suggestions to keep employees from congregating:

  • Block off common areas.
  • Set a maximum capacity for the break room.
  • Place floor markers 6 feet apart for people waiting in line for the bathroom.
  • Hold virtual meetings or multiple meetings for smaller groups to attend
  • Form a committee to plan socially distant alternatives to holiday parties and birthday celebrations.

Reduced Item Sharing

During this time, it’s difficult for employees to share cubicles, computers, or anything else that requires contact. Employees can try to prevent spread from item sharing by staggering hours, disinfecting, modifying workspaces, and washing their hands. However, the safest option is to minimize item sharing for the time being. Below are ways you can cut down on item sharing:

  • Stagger hours for employees who share desks
  • Provide cleaning products and strict guidelines for desk sharing
  • Ask employees to use their personal computer/laptop
  • Rent or purchase new laptops if needed
  • Install a plastic barrier if employees need to share cubicles

Formulate Sanitation Guidelines

Whether your office has employees whose job is to clean the space or your employees clean themselves, policies will need to change. Clear guidelines for clean and disinfecting need to be put in place. These guidelines let employees and visitors know that safety is a priority and they help keep people safe from exposure to the virus. Here are some practices you can base your guidelines on:

  • Use the EPA’s List of Disinfectants To Use Against COVID-19
  • Be more diligent in cleaning areas that don’t get direct sunlight
  • Clean surfaces first with soap and water before using disinfectant
  • Surfaces that aren’t touched frequently don’t require additional disinfecting
  • Employees should be responsible for cleaning any area after they have used or touched it

Communicate New Policies

Employees are in varying stages of worry about getting the virus, but they all want to know what is going to be done and how it will change their normal routine. If management doesn’t clearly and effectively communicate their new policies, people won’t follow them. 

Make it very clear whether you want people to wear masks or not, how often they need to be worn, and if you’ll be providing masks for those who don’t have them. Then, communicate strict guidelines for cleaning in the office. Be available for questions for further clarification. 

Implement Health Screenings/Temperature Checks

A great way to ensure that no sick people are entering the building is health screenings and temperature checks. Before reopening, send a survey to all employees who will be returning to the office about symptoms they’ve experienced, their travel, and people they’ve come into contact with. Keep the questions as non-invasive as possible. You can create a similar survey employees can send to visitors before they arrive, or have the survey ready at the front desk for visitors to take.

Having a fever is one of the main symptoms of the Coronavirus. Checking employees’ and visitors’ temperatures upon arrival is a great way to minimize exposure. Make sure you change your sick leave policy or allow employees to work from home in the case that someone does show up with a fever.

Who Will Return to the Office?

What personnel is permitted back into the office is not a decision to be made lightly. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach, though. Because states are opening up at different rates and in different phases, it is important to have a good understanding of what your state regulations are. 

Once you determine that, you can begin to plan which employees need to return and when. Next, you need to determine which personnel need an office space to work more efficiently. If the Coronavirus has proven anything, it is that if we absolutely must, working from home is feasible. 

However, some of your employees might be having a harder time working from home than others. Giving employees the opportunity to decide for themselves what would be safest and easiest for them is  a good approach to safely returning employees to the office. 

Keep in mind: make sure your approach is phased, not all at once. There is a reason that states are phasing their return to regular business operations, and you should think the same way for your office space. It would put a lot of employees in danger if everyone were to return at once.

Consider a decision tree for re-entry

The Office Re-entry Decision Tree was published by Continuity Central to provide offices with a tangible process to deciding how to return employees to work. Sequentially, it is recommended fthat you:

  1. Create and implement a new floor plan that separates each staff member by at least 6 feet and designated each employee as either a Blue or Green team member.
  2. Make sure that no two employees on the same team are seated next to one another.
  3. Define a schedule for each team to consistently keep; for example: Blue team comes in alternate days, alternate weeks, etc.
  4. Stagger hours of employees on a team basis to prevent potential crowding.
  5. Complete the office re-entry form and submit to Facilities Management for a review of progress.

Create a Vistor’s Policy

Visitors are another area that you need to redefine some rules before reopening your workplace; people cannot just show up to your office unannounced now. First of all, you need to determine if it will be safe to allow visitors on-site at all. After that is decided, you can start the process of creating your visitor policy. Some procedures that you could easily implement into the visitor process include the following: 

Visitors form: 

Visitors now need to be upfront with a lot of information concerning their recent health and traveling. A visitor form is an easy way to obtain this information. Continuity Central provided an example form, which can be printed or used online.

Who will be allowed to enter the business: In the event that you are permitting visitors in your office, you must determine which visitors are allowed, much like deciding which employees are allowed to return. If a visitor’s business cannot be conducted virtually, it is more appropriate for them to come into the office. Visitors should be permitted on-site on a need-based basis.

Establish any extra steps visitors may need to take to enter: In addition to the visitor form that visitors must complete before entering the workspace, you might want to consider extra precautions to keep everyone in the office safe: temperature scans, PPE, etc. It is wise to mandate that your visitors follow the same procedures that your employees are following, including social distancing and PPE rules.

Communicate PPE expectations to visitors: It is important that your visitors are keenly aware of their safety expectations before arriving so that they are prepared to visit your workspace. Sending an email or some sort of notification to your visitor is a great way to inform them and keep everyone involved safe.

How Fidentity Can Help

Fidentity is just the tool that you’ve been looking for to take care of all of your back to work needs. Not only does Fidentity manage your visitors, but you can track your employees, events, and deliveries. Fidentity keeps you, your employees, and visitors safe, all in one software that is easy to navigate and install. Before reopening your workplace Try a free demo and see for yourself how well Fidentity works for you.