It is never too soon to begin planning for safely restarting operations in the era of COVID-19. With the “new normal” starting to form, the reality is that life and most businesses will go on. However, COVID-19 is going to affect how many businesses continue to operate for years to come.
The current Stay At Home order in Illinois goes through May 29, 2020 and the current 5 Phase plan to re-open is laid out here. All four Illinois “Regions” are currently under Phase 2 and it looks possible that as of May 29 many regions will be able to move to Phase 3 (source: Chicago Tribune Article)
This is good news for businesses that are ready and able to return to work!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Preparing the Business
Planning for safely restarting operations requires several considerations. The CDC Has prepared guidance for small businesses and Interim Guidance for Businesses.
- Identify a workplace coordinator
This person needs to be the “point person” for all COVID-19 issues and how they impact the workplace. Allow this person the time to get and stay up to date on everything COVID-19 and how it impacts your business.
- Examine your policies
Modify leave policies to allow sick employees (or those caring for sick family members) to stay home. Government subsidies provide paid COVID-19 sick and leave time at no cost to the employer (you may want to consult with an HR Professional). Consider rotating schedules (i.e. one week in, one week remote) to reduce workplace density and allow for social distancing.
- Identify Critical Operations
What operations can you resume safely and profitably as of Phase 3? What changes can you make to bring other operations online (i.e. restaurants moving to carry-out only)?
- Prepare Business Continuity Plans
What happens if someone gets COVID-19? What happens if a group tests positive? Have a plan. How is your supply chain? Disruptions in supply chains have been a common occurrence lately – plan for it. How are your customers? If they are significantly impacted this could change their buying patterns.
Make sure everyone in the company knows about the above policy changes. Consider weekly “all company” calls and/or emails to provide everyone updates. The one thing we know for certain is that COVID-19 has required rapid changes in a very short amount of time. Changes in operations require training and coordination among many parties. Start soon and communicate often. Tools such as MS Teams, #Slack, and Zoom are all great ways to communicate messages quickly and clearly.
Office Space Planning
CLEANING & HYGIENE
- Verify with your cleaning company that they are using CDC Approved cleaning products and practices. Require it. In many cases, it will not cost any more than it does today.
- Computers and Electronics are often not cleaned by cleaning crews. Find out and if not you should provide staff with appropriate cleaning supplies. Talk to your IT Provider for details.
- Make sure employees leave work spaces clear so that the cleaning crew can clean properly
- Provide masks, gloves, or whatever specific PPE (personal protective equipment) is recommended by Local, State, Federal authorities and the CDC for your business.
- Follow all CDC Guidelines
- Follow Local and State Guidelines
WORK SPACE PLANNING
- As you are Planning for Safely Restarting Operations you need to think about office density. Many offices do not offer enough space to allow employees to keep to the recommended distance apart. Provide additional distance between work spaces. Make sure to abide by current recommendations of 6ft minimum.
- Mark off conference room seats to provide proper spacing
- Consider adjustments to customer lines and waiting areas. Clearly mark acceptable spacing and train staff to politely require customers to abide by them.
- Update signage with revised safety language. Digital Signage is a great way to instantly update messages for all to see.
- Consider deploying temperature monitoring stations at entry points to detect fevers (be careful to comply with all HIPAA rules)
- Determine who is essential (in office) and non-essential (can perform Work from Home). Make remote working is part of an overall data security and protection plan.
- Reduce the number of people in the office by requiring all non-essential workers to work from home. Make sure to provide all the technology (monitors, web cameras, etc) that people need to be EFFECTIVE working from home.
- Rotating essential staff in shifts of 4 days on, 10 days off is a new science based idea gaining traction to minimize outbreaks.
- Implement strong work from home technology to allow employees to work from home AND be effective working from home. It is important you consider efficiency. Your IT Provider should be able to provide these solutions relatively inexpensively. Have a technology audit completed to make sure the current remote-working solutions are not putting your data at risk.
- If anyone comes to work with symptoms, or develops them during the work day, that person should be separated from the rest of the office and sent home (or to seek medical treatment). A Zero tolerance policy should be enforced.
- Make sure employees are educated in the new COVID-19 Sick and Paid Leave policies. Remember, these have no net cost to the employer and provide your staff the financial buffer to stay home to recover or care for others who need them.
- Update Website, Social Media, and Google (hours of operation, etc) to keep customers informed of changes.
- Notify customers of what is going on. Keep them informed and aware of what you are doing to product them and the community at large.
- Have idle sales reps check in with customers to see how they are doing.
Once allowed by federal, state, and local authorities it’s time to open up! Flexibility is key:
- Remember, even the best made plans will have to evolve. Some things will work and some will not. Expect that adjustments will need to be made.
- Management should be communicating weekly, if not daily, regarding the changing landscape.
- Solicit feedback from staff and listen. They are on the front lines and will know what is working and what is not.
- Once you
If you need help with adapting the technology side of your business, including auditing your current implementation and/or the creation of a plan going forward, please feel free to reach out to us at 847-348-3900. We are here to help!