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Three Tenets To Consider Implementing In Your Business Reopening Plan

The original Article authored by Kanda Software CEO, Alex Karpovsky, is published in Boston Business Journal.
You can read it
here.

Companies and leaders are struggling to determine the best ways to move forward with business and protect their employees and customers as they return to work. Rather than revert to a regular routine, businesses should ease their employees into a new routine and create workplaces that accommodate new policies. Although some guidelines exist for specific sectors, leaders may feel like they’re on their own to figure out how to get back to work.

In recent conversations with our clients, we’ve seen three major concerns arise — physical safety, workplace safety and psychological safety. Company leaders have shared valuable insights into the ways they’re adapting and how they plan to move forward this year. Make sure you consider these three areas as you create your reopening plan:

1. Physical safety

Typically, the physical aspect of returning to work is the first concern that company executives and directors must tackle. Although every company is unique, several key factors can be implemented in almost every setting.

For most businesses, reopening with a reduced on-site capacity is a good first step. If possible, you can adopt a “remote by default” policy that only requires workers who need to travel to the office to be there. Following that, an “employee cohort” system can designate different types of workers who can return to work at certain dates. These cohorts can also be organized as shifts or locations within a building to limit the number of employees who come into contact with each other at one time.

With visitors, it’s also a good idea to restrict the number and types of non-employees who can enter the workplace, which can be scaled up over time. Think about implementing visitor policies as well, such as requiring face masks or screening for symptoms.

Finally, you should implement a COVID-19 screening tool that’s easy and comfortable for your employees to do at home before they come to work. With a free tool we created for our clients called Workpass.Today, each employee is asked a set of questions about potential COVID-19 symptoms before the start of the day or shift. If there are no symptoms, the application generates a unique passcode. At the workplace, a designated administrator then checks their passcode and temperature at the door. If your employees don’t have symptoms or a fever and know their colleagues don’t either, they often feel more confident about returning to work.

2. Workplace safety

Business leaders should also consider the physical safety of the workplace itself, which could include a redesigned office space that ensures employees can work and operate six feet apart. Across the building, administrators may think about ways to move desks, rearrange conference rooms or space out communal places such as office kitchens or gathering spots. Common access points, such as building entry and exit doors, should also be spaced out to separate the flow of people.

In addition to creating physical separation, companies should provide visual cues that remind people to wash their hands, separate from others, cover their faces when appropriate and sanitize their desks after each workday. It’s easy to forget that we’re returning to work with new procedures, and these visual cues remind people to take precautions, even though they’re in the same familiar place as before.

To make this work seamlessly, don’t forget to stock up. Order enough sanitizer, soap, tissues, hand wipes and other supplies to make sure employees have enough to do their daily work and that they don’t worry about running out. Create a schedule for reordering and appoint someone who can tackle this task regularly.

3. Psychological safety

Undoubtedly, this time of upheaval has created a turmoil of emotions and uncertainty for everyone on staff. People don’t want to lose their jobs, but they may also be afraid to go back to work. Public health officials have reported an increase in stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness as well. Luckily, business leaders can provide a safe environment for their employees as everyone returns to work.

First, employees should know that there’s nothing wrong with remote work and that they’re not inferior to others who decide to return to the office. This fear may prompt people to return sooner than they feel comfortable, which may create further stress. For now, it’s easy to continue to provide communication and engagement through video calls so everyone feels connected to the team. Refrain from creating panic or “shaming” those who are taking longer to adjust.

While at work, leaders and staff can ensure that new distancing and cleaning rules are in practice and not simply on paper. When employees feel confident about sanitization and clear-cut protocols for interacting with others, they can focus on the important work before them. Employers should also communicate often — and with transparency — so employees feel secure and have the information they need to stay updated.

Part of this ongoing communication should include privacy. If an employee becomes sick, conduct anonymous contact tracing across the office to identify anyone else who may be susceptible to infection. Don’t create panic. Privacy includes data security as well, so if you use a screening tool or other digital information, ensure employees that their information is safe and address any concerns they may have.

Overall, don’t forget to take a deep breath and approach this with relationships and community in mind. Everyone is learning how to adjust to a new way of working, and you can build rapport with your team at the same time. At our company, we worked with a Harvard psychology professor to create a series of seminars about mindfulness and techniques to reduce anxiety and stress. We recommend an employee support group, too, for people to navigate assistance programs and childcare questions. In the end, if you can create a supportive, safe and clean environment, your employees will be proud to work for a company that carefully considered how to reopen during this time.

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