As companies figure out how to return to the workplace, executives need an effective strategy for reopening their facilities. You need to develop a framework for bringing your employees back to the workplace, and it needs to be a cross-functional effort involving stakeholders across different areas of the business.
So what steps should you take before reopening your business?
Prepare your workplace for return
Ensuring health and safety will be critical for employees to return to the workplace. Therefore, cleaning and equipping your facilities for safety must be the top priority. Create a schedule for cleaning and inspection and have an inventory of cleaning supplies and equipment, and personal protective equipment (PPE). You might need to also rethink your workplace design, especially common areas like conference rooms, cafeterias, etc., and modify them to comply with social distancing guidelines. Minimize the need for physical contact as much as possible and pay special attention to materials that are used frequently like doors and door handles, elevator buttons, light switches, office supplies, etc. You must also provide training to your employees on these new cleaning and social distancing procedures, and identify the key people who can increase accountability, and report issues quickly.
Prepare your employees for return
Many employees would be anxious and unsure of how to act after the office reopens. Ignoring these concerns may cause employee resistance to return to the workplace, and could damage your reputation as well as the bottom line. You need to communicate your expectations clearly to ease anxiety and outline the process for returning employees. Help them understand the safety precautions that have been taken and set clear guidelines on how they should interact with each other. Give them enough time to get used to the new working conditions while educating them on the new policies and procedures relating to employee conduct, including employee travel, working from home, IT and data security, and work safety. Include them in safety-related discussions and incorporate their feedback for quick improvements in the processes.
Have a re-exit plan in place
Businesses should have a re-exit plan before returning to the workplace. A successful return strategy will depend on continuous evaluation and planning for different scenarios, including reclosure of your facilities if any health and safety concerns arise in the future. Create a list of actions to take in the event of a COVID-19 infection in the office, which includes isolating the affected individual and triggering contact tracing procedures. Identify who must determine that it’s time to re-exit the office and create a strategy for quick communication in the event of a potential re-exit. It allows everyone to act decisively and immediately if circumstances warrant a re-exit.
Consider a staggered approach
Many companies won’t be able to return all their employees to the workforce immediately after the restrictions are lifted. Staggering the workforce, or limiting the number of employees who return to the workplace will help reduce the infection spread. Assess whether the office needs to be reconfigured and how many employees can return to the reconfigured office by taking into account the number of workstations, parking capacity, elevator capacity, amount of PPE, etc. Start with a small group of essential workers to identify potential problems that might arise during reentry. Consider creating two or more groups and stagger the times each group is in the office. Ensure that any changes made are in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act or other applicable employment laws.
Adopt thermal screening measures for returning employees
Proper precautions should be in place before allowing employees to physically enter the workplace. These measures include thermal screening for anyone entering the building, collecting information about contact with high-risk individuals, travel, or other activities that may increase the risk of spread, COVID-19 test results, or other documentation showing immunity. Ensure that anyone entering your facilities has a clear understanding of cleaning protocols and rules for appropriate conduct, specific to your organization and workplace.
Enhance remote work capabilities
Remote work arrangements have increased significantly and might become permanent for many employees. You can maximize the effectiveness of remote work by revising remote work policies to identify which employees qualify, and clarifying employee expectations of remote work conduct. Invest in collaboration and communications tools but prioritize training employees to work with each other in a virtual environment, while considering proper work-life balance. It is also important to review information security policies and protocols for potential violations in a remote work environment.
Create a supportive environment
Returning employees must feel safe and supported in order to be productive and engaged. Prioritizing these environments will shorten the time it takes employees to reach full productivity. Allow flexible remote work by accommodating different start times, work hours, and general flexibility on when, where, and how work gets done. Offer clear guidance on which employees should come in or stay away from the office while taking into account the external environment employees live in – commutes, economic pressures, general safety, childcare, etc. Enable the sharing of ideas on employee welfare and encourage employee feedback via online forums.
Employ proper social distancing measures
Social distancing guidelines are critical to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and improve employees’ confidence in the safety of the workplace. Calculate the number of people who can safely occupy and visit each floor, create signs to control traffic flow and ensure social distancing in common areas, increase the space between workspaces, reduce the capacity of conference rooms, leave buffers between scheduled meetings to minimize overlap, and install systems which can alert people when they break social distancing guidelines.
ITC CARES – Control Access with Rapid Employee Screening
ITC CARES, our AI-powered visitor screening solution detects temperature, ensures compliance with safety guidelines (such as PPE usage at the point of entry), and supports advanced analytics (such as tracing of employees, analyzing the increase and spread of positive cases, etc.) Integrated workflows notify the HR when someone tests positive for COVID-19 and alert your staff of possible exposure to the infected individual while making sure that the person’s privacy is fully protected.
Fever Detection: Conduct thermal screening at the points of entry to identify people with elevated skin temperature
Mask Detection: Ensure PPE compliance by screening visitors for facemask usage at the points of entry
Hygiene Monitoring: Improve compliance and reduce the risk of infection by monitoring hand sanitization at the points of entry
Social Distancing: Ensure proper social distancing and prevent overcrowding at the workplace, especially at common areas
Employee Identity & Traceability: Integrate your employees’ ID cards with access control systems to remotely add, enable and disable access to specific areas