COVID-19 is on the top of everyone’s minds and at the tip of everyone’s tongues as the world is preparing for life post-COVID, but not without new necessities like mask mandates, personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, and social distancing. Office life has changed rapidly and dramatically in recent months, as a majority of the workforce has been relegated to working from home, but as the fall approaches, many offices are making plans to reopen and allow employees to return to work.
How Does Pandemic Affect Business
COVID-19 is an international pandemic that hasn’t been experienced in nearly 100 years. It brought businesses to a near standstill in March 2020 as many areas of the world went into Shelter in Place orders. This kind of pandemic has a big impact on business. It sets new precedents on business with regards to insurance, remote work options, human resources, mask mandates, hand hygiene, conforming to social distancing guidelines.
How to Plan the Return To the office
Many businesses shifted to remote work in March 2020, but many businesses are looking to the future to allow employees to return to work, and create a work environment that is conducive to life post-COVID 19. There is no denying that employees, managers, and their families are going to have safety as the top of mind. There are several steps that offices can take as they prepare to return to the office.
The big question floating around about COVID-19 is “liability”. For businesses to reopen, they need to manage their liability for both the employees that work for them and the customers with whom they do business. Before bringing people back to the office businesses should meet with their insurance company to understand their needs and risk exposure, make sure they have the proper protection in place, or update policies to reflect the current world we are living in.
COVID-19 has placed a considerable burden on businesses and the people who own and manage them. Business leaders are being forced to make decisions often with imperfect information, and yet the unknowns create an environment that is ripe for litigation for everything from employee discrimination, customer illness, and disclosure practices. An attorney can also provide guidance regarding the use of personal protective equipment and the rights businesses have to require the use of PPE, such as masks or face shields by employees and customers.
The Human Resources department of every business is responsible for coordinating, communicating, and ensuring compliance among employees. They also play a large role in employee health and wellness and can be the point of contact for health insurance-related questions. They can assist with developing and implementing the policies that will support the business including steps like mandatory masks, temperature checks, disclosure requirements, and quarantine measures. It is important to make sure all COVID-19 and post COVID-19 related policies are clearly outlined as an addendum to employee handbooks so employees go through a process of acknowledging these new company policies.
There are three things that are going to have a big impact on the post-COVID-19 work environment: social distancing, hand hygiene, and personal protective equipment.
Social distancing is the new normal. From the grocery store to the computer store, and even your local coffee shop, floor decals make it clear where to stand and even the navigational path you take as you move through a business. Social distancing plays a role in how offices will be configured, employee work schedules, how teams work and meet, and even things like the office water cooler and break room. Businesses can use graphic stands to distribute company wide messages throughout a business to remind people about social distancing. The office can adjust employee schedules and expand remote work opportunities providing more flexibility to workers. Worker retention during COVID-19 is important so happy, healthy employees mean happy, healthy businesses.
Since hands carry thousands of germs, and only 50% of people wash their hands after using the bathroom, hand hygiene is a big deal for businesses. Hand hygiene can be managed with hand sanitizer stands, touchless foot operated sanitizing dispensers are an even better addition to the office environment since they can be easily and discreetly placed throughout an office building or work area. Offering hand sanitizing solutions significantly mitigates the risk of carrying viral germs.
Personal protective equipment will determine what measures employees need to take in order to come back to work. Depending on the location of the business, some states, cities, and towns have mask mandates that must be complied with, and some businesses regardless of local ordinances may have the right to enforce PPE compliance.
5.Virtual Business Solutions
The world was already starting to transition to virtual business solutions, it’s why online stores like Amazon and live streaming video services have grown in popularity in recent years, people want convenience. Now this aspect of convenience has transitioned into wanting more safety and security. If you can shop online you can reduce the risk of exposure than if you went into a store. Virtual business solutions are available for nearly every business out there today. Need groceries? Shop online and have them delivered. Need home goods at Target, buy online, and get curbside delivery. Want to shop for a gift at your favorite main street shop, schedule a virtual shopping appointment. One of the best things that may have come from COVID-19 is inspiring businesses to pivot, to look at new ways of doing business because no business wants to close its doors.
Business As Usual?
It is with a positive outlook in mind that one hopes that the world as we know it and the businesses we know and love will return to some kind of normal. Although the last few months of 2020 have been rife with drama, trauma, and dramatic changes in how we live, work, and go to school. One thing is clear, we can’t change the past, but we can make the best of the circumstances, and implement policies and practices that create a new, perhaps more productive, efficient, and advanced business environment as a result.