The Return to Work: Roadmap to Re-open Your Office Through COVID-19
Posted: 04/27/2020 | Author: Angela Ozar for Creatives On Call
As your creative department starts ramping back up, and we start getting on the road to returning to "normal", Creatives On Call is here for you to help with overflow work that was pushed to the side during the COVID-19 crisis. We can also help with any new hiring you need to do to get your marketing and clients back on track. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-8919 for more information.
The Federal Government has given the OK to re-open the United States on May 1st after a majority of the country has been under shelter-in-place for more than a month. The Federal Government has announced guidelines for re-opening including a three-phase approach. Each state has begun planning the specifics to get their state's restaurants, gyms, and salons back up and running.
The first phase of re-opening allows small groups of 10 people to gather while still practicing social distancing. What does this look like for office settings and places of employment? Businesses can re-open their offices, however, they are encouraged to still have employees work from home if possible.
Even though there is the hope of an end in sight, the world will be different as we know it- and that includes the workplace. What does the return to work look like and how do you create a plan for your company to re-open? Creatives On Call will address these questions and provide your organization with a comeback playbook.
Transition in Waves
Let's address the obvious: we are all in uncharted territory here. Give grace to yourself and your creative department as you coordinate the transition back to the office. There are sure to be challenges and roadblocks along the way. We'll get to those later.
The return to work will look different depending on industry and company size. Several manufacturers have already resumed plant operations. It's expected some industries will go back to high demand right away, while others may take time like retail and travel. In this environment, remote workers will still be utilized. Refer to our remote capabilities information here for more info on how to increase your remote workforce.
Large companies are advised to follow similar protocols as the three-phase approach for re-opening the country: bring people back in phases, gradually, and if employees can continue working from home, they should (at least in the beginning).
It's important to remember as an employer, you still have a responsibility to keep employees safe. Businesses should create a plan and communicate to employees as soon as possible. Continue to look to the local health department and government for guidance with re-opening.
Challenges to Coming Back
Phase one to re-open the U.S. does not include the opening of schools. This means child care is a roadblock for many employees in coordinating coming back to the office. Employers should be understanding of this situation and work with individuals on a case-by-case basis to accommodate their needs.
The comfort level of employees may provide another challenge to manage. Businesses should also evaluate the comfort level of employees on an individual basis with returning to the office. Employees may have loved ones that are high-risk or other valid concerns for their comfort and safety.
Sanitation and social distancing need to be taken into consideration. Should employees wear masks? What are the office cleaning procedures? Is the office supplied with ample hand sanitizer and soap? What if an employee gets sick? Businesses will have to re-evaluate how they operated in the past and come up with a plan to meet these challenges.
OSHA & CDC Guidelines
Under the Occupational Safety & Hazards Act of 1970, employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. OSHA has put out a guide for preparing workplaces for COVID-19. Highlights of the guide include preventive measures and developing procedures for the identification and isolation of those that get sick.
Legally, a business can ask employees if they are sick and test them for symptoms, even in the hiring and onboarding process. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) has issued what employers can and cannot do when it comes to the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has guidance for businesses and employers on COVID-19 as well. The CDC urges adherence to the 6 feet rule in the workplace and the elimination of large gatherings. Limit meetings to 10 people max and whenever large meetings are needed, resort to Zoom or other video conferencing tools.
The key takeaway for businesses is to be flexible during this time. Get educated on your rights and legal duties as an employer. Determine your moral responsibility to your employees as well.
Businesses and office settings will look very different. Cushman & Wakefield, commercial real-estate developer, says "the 6 feet rule isn't going away soon". They've designed the Six Feet Office in response which consists of six elements with rules and signs.
No doubt, we'll see an increase in more people working from home. Post-coronavirus we could see more no-touch options such as automatic doors and voice-activated elevators. Desks may be further apart and saying you're sick will not be met with hidden skepticism. Hiring will be different, and more consideration will be taken.
We will be dealing with the effects of COVID-19 for more than just the next several months. The virus has challenged our cultural norms in the workplace and caused us all to evaluate our health and safety measures. These are our final suggestions for businesses as they plan their return to the office:
Roadmap for Re-Opening
- Businesses should create a plan to transition employees back to the office in waves.
- Evaluate your company's current health, remote work, and leave policies and procedures to ensure they meet the guidelines issued by OHSA, the CDC, and the EEOC.
- Lastly, communicate the game plan for returning to work and changes around the office and help employees adjust to the new normal.
Empathy and flexibility are needed right now. Luckily, we're in this together. Need help getting back to business? We're here for you. Let us know how we can help.
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