As the fight against COVID-19 continues, more communities are inching their way back to normalcy by slowly reopening public spaces and businesses across the country. Right here in Charles County, some businesses that were previously restricted due to social distancing guidelines are reopening their doors, and workers may soon be able to come back to work.
While the reopening of our communities is occurring in phases, the pandemic is far from over, and the coronavirus still represents a serious public health concern that should not be taken lightly. With that in mind, we’re outlining some ways for business owners to help keep their workers and customers safe in the months ahead.
Focus on a Safe Physical Environment
The first, most important step an employer should be taking prior to bringing employees back to the office or business location is to ensure the workspace is safe. Even if you’ve continued operating as an essential business through stay-at-home orders, you should consider taking the following steps for your work environment:
- Schedule a full sanitization of the facility and equipment prior to employees returning
- Review workspaces and determine if you will need to implement capacity limits to promote social distancing
- Consider closing non-essential rooms or spaces for the time being
- Implement cleaning guidelines that outline how frequently your facility will need to be cleaned
- Establish necessary disposal sites for personal protective equipment (PPE) that will be used throughout the day, such as facemask, gloves, etc.
- Consider separating entrances and exits, if possible, to limit situations where physical distancing is impossible
- Determine if staggered shifts is a possibility for your business
Put Screening, Reporting, and Response Procedures in Place
Your business might want to take additional precautions by requiring employees to complete self-assessments or temperature checks every day they come to work. These steps won’t guarantee that COVID-19 or other illnesses won’t spread in the workplace, but they can go a long way to reducing the risk.
Now’s the time to think about how you’re going to communicate with employees about any screening you’re planning on implementing. From there, you’ll want to make sure you have specific procedures outlined for reporting on and responding to situations as they arise — just be sure you’re following all required HIPPA regulations for protecting private health data and information.
Consider Emotional and Mental Health
To say that 2020 has been a difficult year for many would be an understatement. Employers should keep this top-of-mind as they move into the next phase of reopening. Be understanding of the potential stresses, fears, and frustrations people have faced in the past few months and do your best to provide the resources they need to support them (your company’s health insurance provider may be able to help with this as well). Just remember, it might be “just a job” to some people, but knowing that an employer has your back can go a long way for many others.
Over-Communicate with Your Team
With everything that’s gone on over the past few months, it’s understandable that some employees may not catch every message or update you send to them. That’s why it’s so important to over-communicate your business’ plans to reopen or expand operations in the coming weeks.
- Ensure you outline new procedures for employee and/or customer screenings prior to resuming operations
- Consider implementing easy-to-read signage and updates at your business. This will help your employees stay safe and give your customers peace of mind.
- Regularly notify employees of any changes to your business’ normal operations (e.g., occupancy restrictions, disinfecting policies, etc.)
- Communicate with your team all of the steps that were taken to keep them safe in the workplace
It might seem like a lot of work to keep everyone informed about every step you’re taking or every new process you’re implementing, but over-communicating with them is for their benefit in the long run.
Keep an Eye on Local Guidelines and Trends
There are great tools available online that allow you to track important trends and news surrounding the coronavirus around the world. But when it comes to understanding what’s happening in Southern Maryland, your best option is to visit local government websites for the latest updates and guidelines surrounding reopening.
Below are some quick links to local government updates regarding COVID-19:
If you’re a business owner or are responsible for employee wellness, the above tips are just a few of the ways you can help ensure that reopening is done safely and effectively. For more information, be sure to check out this free guide from the National Safety Council, America’s leading nonprofit safety advocacy organization.