COVID-19 is forcing businesses to reevaluate their operations from top to bottom. Not least of which is how to safely conduct business when employees return to work. Employers everywhere are trying to figure out answers to these kinds of crucial questions:
- How do we reopen our doors for business AND keep people safe from coronavirus?
- What best practices are most effective for mitigating coronavirus risk in the workplace?
- What policies should we adopt in the wake of COVID-19?
Likewise, employees are concerned about whether the workplace they’re returning to will be safe for them. A top priority for businesses is to restore the confidence of their employees that they can come to work without fear. They want to see employers take their concerns seriously and take proactive steps to cope with the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
At TentCraft, we’ve been gaining valuable experience with this lately. In addition to getting feedback from customers, partners, and local businesses about how they’ve adapted their policies to prioritize safety, we’ve remained open and operating throughout the entire pandemic as an exempt emergency manufacturer of COVID-19 medical tents in Michigan. With all that in mind, we put together a list of the top four best practices that businesses can put into effect as they get back to work:
- Check for Fever/Symptoms of Employees & Visitors Daily
- Embrace Mask Use & Social Distancing
- Revise Policies to Fit the COVID-era
- Adopt Regular Cleaning & Disinfecting Habits
1) Check for Fever/Symptoms of Employees & Visitors Daily
The best way to keep your workplace COVID-19 free is to keep it out to begin with. Genius! There’s no way to do that with 100% certainty, so the next best thing is adopting a common-sense strategy like temperature checks for fever before people get in. From medical centers to police stations and factories, organizations are prioritizing temperature testing as a key part of their COVID-19 mitigation strategy - because, at the very least it forces people to consider how they’re feeling more closely and will restrict attempts to work through illness, which inevitably happens.
Tips for Effective Workplace COVID-19 Screening:
Set Up a Dedicated Medical Tent
- If at all possible you want to screen people away from your actual workplace, ideally in dedicated COVID-19 medical screening tents positioned near entryways. COVID-19 is extremely contagious, so preventing your space from becoming contaminated means keeping as much of it out as you can.
- Many types of screening tents exist and can be adapted to any environment, like:
- Drive-thru screening tents that can be set up at entrances to parking lots and garages for high-volume screening
- Indoor flat-top tents to safely partition space inside for screening
- These are great for taking temperature readings while limiting physical contact.
Develop a COVID-19 Screening Form
- At minimum, visitors that are not regularly in the workplace should all fill out and sign a basic form that reviews recent health symptoms related to COVID-19. This also provides you, the employer, an opportunity to display any policies you’ve enacted while ensuring these are clearly visible to anyone entering the workspace.
Log Results Daily
- Logging results verifies that policies are being followed and helps reduce potential liability and future issues. In general, it’s just good to have documentation showing your mitigation practices.
2) Encourage Mask Use & Follow Social Distancing Guidelines
Wearing a mask all the time isn’t going to be practical, but encouraging employees to wear them if they choose is a good idea, especially if they are working in close proximity to others.
Social distancing guidelines, on the other hand, should become standard operating procedure for the time being. The CDC is currently recommending people stay at least 6-feet apart while refraining from congregating in groups entirely. Remind your team daily to follow these guidelines so it stays top of mind.
(Image source: 10TV.com)
3)Revise Policies to Fit the COVID-19 Era
Companies need to review their policies and make changes that err on the side of caution to help mitigate COVID-19 risks. Every business is different so there’s no one-size-fits-all policy, but here are some ideas you can consider adding or modifying for your business:
- Identify a COVID-19 Coordinator
- It helps to have a point of contact who is responsible for handling and communicating COVID-19 related matters.
- Flexible Remote-Work / Telecommuting Policies
- Chances are you’ve already been forced to answer a lot of remote-work-related questions, but even as businesses reopen this is going to be important. Employees need to know that if they aren’t feeling well working from home isn’t just an option, it’s encouraged.
- Revise Sick Policies for the COVID-era
- COVID-19 is requiring that businesses become flexible with how they handle sick leave policies. This includes:
- Encouraging sick employees to stay home
- Relaxed PTO policies - People that have symptoms but no PTO available should NOT be coming to work or pressured to work through illness.
- People that experience symptoms during the day should be immediately sent home
- Limit Face-to-Face Contact and Travel
- Use alternate arrangements whenever possible, like video conferencing
- Staggered shifts
- For production facilities and workplaces with lots of people, consider staggering shift times to reduce the total amount of people in contact with each other at any one time.
Here are some additional tips for making sure your policies stick:
- Be Proactive with Communication
- Clearly articulate changes in policies and expectations to ensure employees aren’t fearful of retribution (or they won’t follow them!)
- Have conversations with employees about their concerns and ways to improve
- Set Aside Time to Distribute and Review Updates
- It’s your job to make sure the message gets home - make it a priority to disseminate and review policies
- Display Reminders Prominently
- Post guidelines and reminders in common spaces around the workplace
4)Adopt Stringent Cleaning & Disinfecting Routines(Image source: GreeleyTribune.com)
COVID-19 has proven highly contagious and can easily make its way around without proper cleaning and disinfecting efforts. Ever get annoyed walking into the office kitchen only to find dirty dishes stacked up in the sink? That should be a thing of the past in the post-coronavirus workplace, because keeping things clean is no longer just a professional courtesy - it’s a health requirement. Businesses need to really bring their A-game by making regular cleaning and disinfecting practices a part of their culture as a shared responsibility for all employees. It’s not easy, but here are some hacks for adopting better coronavirus cleaning habits:
- Designate 10-Minutes Just for Cleaning
- This is one that’s worked well for us - immediately following our morning huddle we spend 10-minutes cleaning and disinfecting our space. Setting time aside after a regularly-scheduled task really helps in developing a routine and awareness for keeping a cleaner workspace.
- Post Cleaning and Sanitation Guidelines
- Also discourage sharing of phones and other personal equipment
- Recognize Good Cleaners
- Call out top-cleaners in huddles, meetings, and newsletters for positive reinforcement.
- Create an Incentive
- If it’s difficult to get people actively engaged, an incentive that aligns with your business culture might help break the malaise and add some excitement.
- Create a “Chore-Wheel” (a la “The Office”) to Help Share the Load
- I mainly just wanted to work in an Office reference here, but it also might be worth a try!
COVID-19 is requiring organizations adapt to a new workplace reality to mitigate health risks and safely reopen for business. While this will create some inconveniences, for sure, it’s also an opportunity to rethink policies, improve company culture, and strengthen ties with employees. The best thing you can do if you find yourself in this position is to be proactive and communicative with your people - because when it’s time to finally reopen, it’ll be better for everyone if they can focus on their jobs without worrying about their safety.