Are You Ready To Reopen Your Business?

Published on April 26, 2020


Gary O’Connor, BCC, SPHR, SHRM-SCP


Managing Partner & Executive Coach – Your Part-Time HR Manager, LLC

As the COVID-19 numbers drop and the politicians start to talk about reopening businesses, it is time to think about what will “life” be like after the pandemic. What will that new normal look like?

When I ask my clients, are you ready, and I get a resounding “YES!” But when I ask a series of follow-up questions such as, “what will day one look like, will it be business as usual or gradual ramp up?” “How are you prepared to address employee safety concerns,” or “will your employees be happy to return to their old cubicles after working remotely?” As you may have guessed it, their response turns to, “gee, I didn’t think about that.”

Think of it this way, if you are going to have questions about returning to the workplace or are thinking about it, and if you do, so will your employees. So what are some of the things that we can begin to anticipate and explore before we return to business? Among these considerations are how we work, support our employees, support our clients, and return to business. 

A good starting point is to look at what the essential businesses have done to stay operational during the pandemic. Here are a few possibilities to consider. 

Workplace Safety Policies – Develop and implement appropriate workplace safety policies such as social distancing, protective equipment, temperature checks, sanitation, and use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas.

Clean and Disinfect Your Workplace – Ensure worksites are clean. As employers, it is essential to have disinfecting supplies always on hand. Encourage employees to clean their workspaces and personal items such as cell phones daily. Make instant hand sanitizers available in all public areas. Consider closing common areas where employees congregate.

Gradual Staffing Ramp Up – Allow for small groups of employees to return to the workplace at a time. To reduce the number of on-site employees, perhaps continuing with alternating remote workdays. This can be done on varying days or weeks and will ensure that all employees keep a safe social distance from each other while doing their jobs effectively.

  • While for many, the return to the workplace after the pandemic will be a relief to many, it may be far harder than expected for others. It is essential to acknowledge the anxiety that even the idea of returning to shared physical spaces will evoke for many.
  • Some of your staff may have experienced trauma. Employees will need to process that loss or what they have experienced to their health, safety, freedom, financial, and job security, to name a few. Some employees may carry deep anxiety or depression, and others may be angry.
  • In fact, some staff may not return at all. Staff may decide to retire early or stay home with their family. Some employees may have suffered a loss of a loved one or a colleague without the benefit of traditional rituals for processing grief. 

Antibody Tests and Verifications – Employers should consider having a clearance procedure such as COVID-19 testing or temperature taking in place. While both the EEOC and ADA have stated that testing is permissible, keep in mind that testing must be done confidentially. PPE’s should be provided to employees administering the tests. With the ongoing efforts for antidotes and vaccines, one day, we may need to consider tests and treatment as a part of the employment process. 

  • Taking Sick Days – Gone are the times where employees can come to work with a cold or any illness symptoms. Reiterate the sick policy and the importance of adhering to it repeatedly. Consider the continuation of policies that support working from home when illness may be a concern. 
  • Temperature Testing At The Door – For employees not calling in sick and coming to work, consider temperature testing at the door at the beginning of employee shifts. Consider creating guidelines on when you should do additional temperature check during the day or at what point do you need to send an employee home and return to work procedures. By the way, don’t forget to review your pay policies on this!

Special Accommodations – Strongly consider special accommodations for workers who are members of a vulnerable population. This includes elderly individuals who have serious underlying health conditions, individuals with diabetes, asthma, or compromised immune systems.

Spacial Changes In The Workplace – consider adapting the physical workplace to permit social distancing, such as shared workspace, partitions between receptionists, and anyone else who interacts with employees or customers.

Masks Or Cloth Face Coverings In The Office – While can refuse to permit employees from wearing a medical mask or respirator, but in light of the CDC’s recommendation, permitting or even mandating all employees to wear masks in the office should be considered. Some firms are creating company branded masks as a way to show cohesion and to add some fun in the workplace. But if you require PPE’s, the employer should pay for it!

Social Distancing For Clients Or Visitors – How will we interact with our clients? Consider spacing outlines and minimizing appointments or even restricting access. Leadership should carefully consider and determine what is right for their organization and how the processes may evolve as conditions change. 

As we make critical decisions around our new norm, we will need to deliberate over what this all means to the privacy of employees. What will happen to Private Health Information (PHI)? Will we see testing for COVID-19 as a part of the pre-employment process? What about verification around antibodies and isolation periods? Many answers are still unclear, but the most successful companies will make every attempt to update their approach as new information is available. 

On a final note, at YPTHRM, we can not overemphasize the need to communicate operational or policy changes to your staff and customers. It will not be possible to overcommunicate and obtain employee sign-off where needed.

In these challenging times, all of us here at Your Part-Time HR Manager, LLC, are working and ready to help. Whether writing new policies, assisting your executive teams, managers, and HR teams or simply being there to hear concerns, we are here for you.

Let’s navigate this new normal together.

Contact us today at 516-522-0078 or goconnor@ypthrm.com.

Your Part-Time HR Manager – Providing no-nonsense, cost-effective solutions to your HR Dilemmas!

It is important to note that Your Part-Time HR Manager provides advisory services to our clients and newsletter subscribers. None of the information contained herein should be construed as legal advice, nor is Your Part-Time HR Manager engaged to provide legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult your attorney or legal department if you want assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

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Gary O’Connor, BCC, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Managing Partner & Executive Coach – Your Part-Time HR Manager, LLC

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