Safety First: How to Protect Employees as You Head Back to Work
As states are slowly beginning to re-open, so are businesses. Employers across the country are charged with the unenviable task not only of deciding when their businesses should re-open, but also how they should reopen. Will office layouts have to be changed? Should employees be required to wear gloves and masks? Even if employees can go back to work, should they?
With all of the above and more to contemplate, opening up can be a daunting task. Whether you’re thinking about reopening (or you’re already open) here are some things we think you should consider:
1. Do you have to go back to work?
We get it — we’re all eager to get back to business as usual! But consider this: is working from home a little longer a sustainable option? If it’s feasible for your employees to continue doing their jobs remotely for a little while longer, it may be worth holding out. If not, can you allow a percentage of your staff to continue working from home? The fewer employees crowding the office, the better staff can follow social distancing guidelines.
That being said, it’s still essential to consider your employees’ health and safety even when they are working from home. Make sure you are communicating with your employees about their needs, and taking advantage of aid programs that will help you help them.
2. Investing in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Although the extent to which employers are responsible for providing PPE varies widely from state to state, providing masks, gloves or face shields to employees is a goodwill gesture that shows them that you are will to invest in their safety. It’s also a practical measure: by providing PPE, you can guarantee the availability and quality of all protective equipment, which could help prevent a healthcare disaster.
PPE is just the beginning — it’s also wise to stock up on hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and other preventative items. If you’re unsure what you should be buying, try asking your staff! They’ll surely appreciate being included, and can give you a clear sense of what they need around the office in order to feel safe.
3. Social Distancing Measures
Some social distancing measures — like ensuring employees can work 6 feet apart — seem obvious. Placing social distancing tape in client-facing environments is also common practice, although it’s essential to ensure the tape encourages a proper amount of distance.
There are, however, some factors you may not previously have considered. How will you control seating in common areas, especially if you have couches in your office? Is it feasible to fit all your employees safely in the same space, or will you need to stagger work hours? Do smaller spaces, like bathrooms and kitchens, allow for social distancing? There’s no perfect solution to any of these issues, but all of them will need to be discussed with your staff. Speaking of which:
4. Communication is Key
If you decide it’s best to go back to work (or if you’ve already been at work for a while) ask yourself this: do my employees understand exactly what is expected of them? The best policy isn’t always the most complicated one — an easy-to-follow, transparent list of rules and expectations will not only ensure that your employees know what to do, but will also help them feel safer, since they’ll be confident they understand all the safety measures that are being taken.
As Joseph Grenny mentions in his article in the Harvard Business Review, one policy you might consider adopting is a “Please and Thank You” policy. According to him:
The only way to create and sustain change is to have 200% accountability: Employees must understand that they are not simply responsible to follow safe practices themselves (the first 100%), they are also responsible to ensure everyone around them does as well (the second 100%). Instruct employees that when anyone sees anyone violate safe practices, they are to remind them of proper protocol with a polite, “Please.” For example, “Please wear a mask when you’re in the office.
5. Be Clear (And Generous) With Benefits
When it comes to keeping employees safe, basic measures like daily temperature checks and employer-led COVID testing are a good place to start. But in order to ensure your employees feel 100% secure, it’s essential to a) provide them with adequate health and personal benefits and b) make sure they understand those benefits.
For instance: if your employees have access to an FSA, are you confident they understand how to use it? Better yet, have you let them know about all the new rules regarding FSA flexibility? The better your employees understand the benefits they’re being offered, the more secure they’ll feel.
If you have any questions about how to develop better policies, or create an easier to use benefits system, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.