Businesses that have been shut down or operating at limited capacity are thinking ahead to what their post-coronavirus reality might look like.
However, this now presents employers with a new set of challenges as part of the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the time to develop plans to address this inevitable situation.
Here are a few steps you will want to re-consider as you re-open your workplace:
Even as you open your workplace to your employees and clients ensure social distancing continues. Avoid physical contacts, such as shaking hands and hugging.
While you are putting together the list, you can follow the guidelines by the Ministry of Health on personal hygiene. If you’re with a colleague, sit two meters (minimum one meter) apart.
If possible, encourage your employees to avoid happy hours, club activities, and other small group events. Keep physical distance but maintain a social connection.
If using indoor cafeterias, try to sit in rows or zigzag. Keep conversation to a minimum; if necessary, cover your mouth
What can you do to your workspace that will maximize the 6-foot distance between workers, customers, and visitors? Can you stagger workspaces? Adjust desks to point towards walls or office partitions?
Companies like Cushman Wakefield have even developed a 6 feet office rule to help clients prepare for their employees to return to the office. This includes steps like walking the office clockwise always and everywhere to ensure traffic flows completely safe at the workplace and people maintain distance.
In cases where this could be expensive or even take more time than expected, you could encourage your employees to embrace remote work or consider other affordable options like co-working spaces that can be quite affordable as you work on the space adjustments.
Before reopening, you should also want to implement safeguards for the ongoing monitoring of employees and customers who access your workspace.
This could include steps like:
Pandemics are a public issue first and a business issue second. Hence, it is important for the public and private sector to come together to provide an adequate and comprehensive response to a pandemic event.
As we re-open our workspaces, businesses should want to leverage advisories, resources and health safety measures prescribed by international, national and local agencies and health officials, and refrain from distributing conflicting materials as this can lead to confusion and fear among employees.
While well-intended, companies must closely coordinate on any direct efforts to support communities with local agencies to avoid chaos and to not impede any public assistance efforts underway.
Communication strategy and channels to engage effectively with local and national authorities should be established.
Companies may set up matching grant and other financial assistance programs to help employees and communities in financial distress during this time.
While you are looking to having your employees back in the office, in instances where you can still have some of your employees work from home ensure that you invest in tools to enable personnel to work remotely and collaborate virtually, assess their current bandwidth to support remote work, perform periodic network stress testing and identify workarounds for critical tasks that are not executable from home.
It is worth noting that while remote working is a viable option for the service sector, it does not work as well for manufacturing, thus resulting in critical impacts on product supply chains.
Businesses are going to need to invest in safety equipment of both their workers and patrons to keep the confidence of consumers coming back.
So, make a point to buy 60% or more alcohol per volume hand sanitizers and make them freely available across your business or office space.
While at it ensure that you train and inform workers on proper handwashing procedures (use of hand sanitizer), etiquette for coughing, and other ways to manage hygiene. Ensure the stations are also well labelled. You may also want to include a few handwashing instructions at the stations.
As we adhere to the new Government regulations, wearing face masks is becoming a part of the new normal. Moving forward, businesses will be required to create face mask rules that you deem are the most appropriate for your line of business.
Then, update your employee handbook with your new policies, and make sure employees are clear with your expectations of both them and the customers you serve.
In some instance, you might be required to provide and distribute masks and hygiene products according to the needs of the workplace.
If you must have a “closed-room” discussion after opening your office, assess the options to either:
Host the discussion in a large enough room to give each attendee a 6-foot space between one another, or host the meeting virtually, wherein each participant may be under the same roof, but the meeting still takes place via a web conferencing tool online, to minimize direct exposure.
As a rule, post the number of people each room can accommodate, and make sure to update room booking software accordingly.
For instance, if your conference rooms were bookable for 10 people before coronavirus, and now it is deemed that space can actually only host 3 to 4 people, update the preferences so that employees aren’t making inadvertent errors in booking meetings.
With the introduction and extension of curfew time by the Government, you would want re-consider and review the 9 to 5 pm business hour rule.
Create an atmosphere in which employees can freely take advantage of paid time off and flexible working hours.
Make sure there are no disadvantages to doing so. And, it is not just the 9-5ers who need to consider this, but also the business at large, check how your business can adjust its hours of operation all together to make room for something new.
Conduct brief pandemic training with employees to enhance employee and organizational preparedness to respond effectively
Communicate with employees to raise awareness, enforce policies (e.g., travel restrictions) and familiarize them with available tools and resources.
If your business is ready to reopen after COVID-19, you’ll need an effective communication plan to spread the word to customers. Getting customer communications right is critical to your business’s success in a post-pandemic world, as consumers are looking for businesses that make them feel safe and secure.
Ernest and Young in one of their reports noted that effective, consistent communications during a crisis will help you maintain customer trust, restore employee morale and confidence, and retain market stability.
For both B2B and B2C businesses, consistent messaging across all channels is key. any message you send right now should be timely, relevant, empathetic and considerate of your customers’ current needs and problems.