EL PASO, Texas -- It's time to start thinking about some best practices for returning to your place of business. Of course, every company is facing a unique set of circumstances, but if you start kicking ideas around now and begin the discussion, you’ll be in great shape when your doors open. Here are some questions to consider. Rick Cabrera, a senior account executive in employment benefits with HUB International, offers some things for business owners to consider.
Q: Will any of your staff be able to continue working from home?
This might be the easiest way to calm fears, reduce the risk of spread and keep your staff safe. Employee anxiety will be the biggest driver, and don’t be surprised if some employees push back on returning to work.
If you still haven’t created work from home guidelines, including how to track employee progress, hours worked and overtime (non-exempt employees) now would be the time.
Q: Should you consider hazard pay?
Many employees will need to stay home to look after children since schools are closed. Or maybe the employee, or even a family member, has a compromised immune system. A leave of absence or even temporary hazard pay might be an option.
Ultimately, companies will need to analyze workflow and do their best to accommodate their employees’ varying concerns. Just make sure you are uniform in your decisions, have clearly laid out the guidelines and share any updates with staff. Doing so should reduce any concerns over accusations of discrimination.
Q: Are you going to allow clients to revisit your building?
This is tied to your industry and for many the answer will be an emphatic “yes.” If not, establish some criteria and an efficient way for your staff to notify clients. The last thing you want is for a client to show up and be told, “sorry you can’t come in.” It’s best to establish a policy far in advance and make sure word gets out quickly.
Also, if your retail model requires people to visit to make purchases, you’ll want to establish some rules and create a marketing campaign to let your customers know the protocol and the safety methods you’ve incorporated to protect visitors.
Q: Will your company provide PPE to employees?
Months ago the acronym PPE, for personal protection equipment, meant virtually nothing to many of us and now it’s part of our lexicon. Obviously, providing it would ease some anxiety, but there’s a cost and some employees might not like the idea of being forced to wear PPE. It may also make your clients and customers uncomfortable. You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons and make a decision that best fits your industry.
Q: Is your office clean? Do employees have the necessary cleaning products?
Whether your office is completely closed or open for reduced hours, many companies have taken advantage of this opportunity and done a thorough sanitation. You’ll want to encourage your employees to take some time and clean their work areas. To do so you’ll need to provide them with hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes.
Q: Should we monitor employees and make sure the sick stay home?
Doing employee temperature checks are legal because of COVID-19, but keep in mind some employees may push back or have another condition that is causing a temperature spike. Establish the guidelines and make sure the employees have been informed and know what to expect.
You’ll need to have employees willing to do it, the necessary personal protection equipment and high-quality thermometers.
Another option is to hire a company to administer the testing. Jeremy Green’s company, Workforce Health Solutions, recently shifted its focus and works with companies to provide temperature checks.
“We have successfully put in 1,800 hours screening individuals,” Green said. “We wear PPE and just screen.”
But he knows cost can be an issue and some companies do in fact have access to the cleaning supplies, goggles and temperature equipment necessary to put their employees on the front line.
“Ultimately if the resources are there and they aren’t scared of the liability … and can take a temperature, then that’s fine,” Green said. “The company just needs the right stuff to protect whoever is administering the test.”
Q: If temperature testing isn’t perfect, what can be done?
The next logical step is to do what’s called rapid COVID-19 screenings.
Green’s company has been doing the rapid testing for the last three weeks.
“Internally, we are testing our medical staff with a rapid COVID-19 test that tests for antibodies, and within 10 minutes you have a rapid result,” said Green.
According to Green, it’s 92% effective at detecting Coronavirus antibodies. “It can also detect an asymptomatic carrier with 88% to 97% accuracy (depending on the available test kits) so the boss can now say, ‘go home and seek further testing.’”
Q: Do we need a new floor plan?
Many companies have strategically set up their offices to increase collaboration. However, for the time being, meetings in tight spaces will not be met with much enthusiasm. You may consider opting for more open spaces and even spreading out desks to provide more personal space for each employee.
Q: Are you rehiring furloughed staff? Will they be eligible for benefits immediately?
There are a few outliers, but most carriers are willing to waive waiting periods for furloughed employees. If that’s not the case, please check with your broker and carrier. Frankly, that information should’ve been shared with the employee as part of the furlough process.
You’ll want to create a post-furlough/return-to-work letter that clearly spells out the process, including when they should report to work, if the employee will lose any seniority, and the safety methods and protocols that have been incorporated to keep employees safe.