Navigating a Safe Re-entry into the Workplace

No matter where you live and work, the pandemic has undoubtedly changed your life in fundamental ways.

While some employees discovered (for the first time) what it means to be an “essential worker,” many others came to the realization that their jobs weren’t considered essential at all. Still others had to transition quickly from working in an office to working from the (dis)comfort of their own homes.

No matter where your staff falls on this spectrum, you’ve likely had to convert at least a portion of your workforce to remote work. These days, many places are starting to reopen and attempting to define a safe “new normal.” But this process doesn’t have to be as scary as you might think. Here’s a list of tips to help your employees safely re-enter the workplace.

Modify your facilities

Prepare for your employees to re-enter the workplace by modifying your facilities to make your business safer. There are several steps you can take, some of which depend on the capacity and configuration of your office space, and the size or deployment of your workforce.

Start by scheduling a thorough inspection of your site, paying special attention to your HVAC and ventilation systems to make sure they’re safe and functioning properly. Do your research to be sure you’re hiring a professional inspector with a solid reputation.

Take careful measurements of your workplace to determine how many employees can work safely in each space provided. You may need to reconfigure or renovate workspaces to ensure that all employees can maintain a safe social distance from one another, as well as from any clients who might enter the building.

Once you know what you have to work with, consider installing plexiglass dividers between work areas and at service counters to help protect your employees and customers as they interact with one another.

Install markings on the floor or walls that make it easier for workers and guests to adhere to social distancing standards. It’s especially important that these are clearly visible in gathering areas such as lobbies, kitchens, heavily traveled corridors, and break rooms.

If you find that your office space is too small to accommodate a regular complement of workers in light of social distancing requirements, consider staggering shifts or continuing remote work for some employees.

Create unexpected space

You also can expand your workspace. One affordable way is adding portable restrooms; by doing so, you can spread out traffic and ease social distancing.

Restrooms are typically some of the most germ-ridden places in any business — and the place where workers and customers are most likely to congregate (apart from meeting rooms). Renting porta-potties to lighten the load on washroom capacity can be a feasible method of reducing the spread of germs.

Under OSHA regulations, employers are required to provide a certain number of toilets based on the size of their workforce (two for 16-35 employees, three for 36-55, etc.). Adding porta-potties can be a simple, low-cost way to ensure that your company is up to code during and after any renovations.

They’re also an effective way to provide individual spaces for employees, rather than bringing them together in a permanent facility.

Stock up on PPE

Your company is responsible for providing employees with personal protective equipment, so you should stock up on enough PPE inventory to keep your employees safe at all times. Load up on the following items to ensure that you have plenty to go around:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Face masks
  • Disinfectant wipes/sprays
  • Antibacterial hand soap
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Any other industry-specific PPE

Promote financial literacy

With the job market in flux and many employees worried about their financial future, they may be experiencing a heightened level of stress and anxiety. This can create an underlying distraction among workers. However, if you respond with understanding and clear communication, you can mitigate negativity and minimize any potential drop in productivity.

You can demonstrate that you’re invested in your staff by providing materials that foster financial literacy and provide them with information about their future. Compassionate acknowledgment of your employees’ situation — along with a steady paycheck — can go a long way toward putting their minds at ease.

Fortunately, there’s a wealth of financial resources you can share with your workforce. Steps you can take include:

  • Promoting 401(k)s and communicating to your staff about other retirement options
  • Providing them with information on personal finance
  • Offering information on access, eligibility criteria, and benefits relating to government economic aid programs
  • Encouraging employees to check their credit standing and consult guides on how to boost credit
  • Furnishing information on homeowners’ or renters’ insurance, supplemented by info on home warranties, which protect the major systems in their homes
  • Sharing info on budgeting, saving, debt management, and other programs that help stabilize finances

Offer skills training

The business realm has changed dramatically, and job skills likely will change with it. Help your employees navigate these changes by training them in a range of skills that can increase their value in this challenging environment — while also helping your company elevate, evolve, and potentially provide customers with new services.

You can’t go wrong if you provide training in evergreen basics like customer service and interpersonal communication. Meanwhile, more specialized classes in a new software platform or developing technologies can improve their versatility and ability to adapt.

For those who wish to shift their skill sets to a completely new area, you might provide rudimentary training in skills such as driving a stick shift (in preparation for heavy-equipment operation).

In these unique and uncertain circumstances, nobody knows exactly what to expect. Creating an environment in which your employees feel respected, safe, and comfortable is one of the best methods of ensuring that everyone returns to the workplace in good spirits and prepared to give their all.

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