As state and local governments across the country phase out restrictions and allow companies to reopen, business leaders must be prepared to meet varying regulatory compliance and employee safety rules and protocols. To help them navigate this ever-evolving guidance, CorpGov recently moderated the first panel in the Reopening the Workplace series.
The panel, hosted in partnership with ICR, CTEH, and Nasdaq, featured leading experts from various sectors and industries, who discussed eight issues that companies will need to take into consideration as they welcome employees back into the office.
1. General reopening issues
Initially, your company will need to make some general decisions around reopening, like whether to open on a gradual basis (based on state government levels) or to make more significant moves. You will also need to consider issues like public transport, and whether to include your board of directors in these decisions, as they often manage and oversee risk.
Clear, consistent communication will continue to be critical as you begin to reopen. Whatever you do on an operational level should have a corresponding communications plan to go along with it. Communicating with employees is paramount, as they will interface with your customers and other members of the public. However, you’ll also need to consider how to communicate with other stakeholders and investors.
3. Social Distancing
While most people are now familiar with social distancing requirements, these practices may look different in the workplace. Your company will need to decide how to implement social distancing recommendations — for example, by modifying employee pedestrian flow throughout the office or adapting shift schedules to accommodate fewer employees at any given time.
4. Workplace Cleaning and Disinfecting
Companies may also have questions regarding how often they need to clean, what areas need to be disinfected regularly, and what products should be used. This will likely be a fluid, evolving process, but the CDC and EPA are good sources for reliable recommendations. These recommendations will also differ based on whether you have had a suspected or confirmed case within your office — if you have, you will need to follow the proper protocols for that employee’s workspace and footprint. In general, cleaning will focus on high-contact touch points, like doorknobs and thermostats.
5. Personal Protective Equipment
OSHA typically provides guidance around personal protective equipment (PPE). However, regulations may also vary state to state, which may impact how your company decides to enforce this particular issue. Some companies, for example, may require employees to wear masks in the office, but also continue to give employees the option to work from home if they prefer. Others may choose to require masks in common areas, but not in individual offices or personal spaces.
6. Employee Infection
Companies will also need to determine how to handle potential employee infections. For example, will you rely on employee self-reporting, or will you institute screening procedures or technology (e.g., temperature checks before permitting entrance into the building)? Keeping close tabs on employee symptoms can help you hone in on when the infection may have started and who that employee has been in contact with. You’ll also need to have a communication plan in place in the event that you do have an employee infection. Who will you need to notify and how will you communicate it?
7. Contractors and Vendors
Beyond establishing rules for your employees, you will need to outline precautionary guidelines for third parties, contractors, and vendors. For example, you may decide to restrict visitors during the initial reopening phases, allow visitors only in certain areas of the building, or request that visitors wear PPE.
As you consider the future, you may decide to implement permanent changes in regard to your telework policy. While some companies may continue to allow employees to work from home, others may be more eager to encourage employees to return to the office — it all depends on how your employees collaborate and the needs of your business.
For additional insight on these issues, including commentary from the panelists about how their individual companies are handling each challenge, access the full replay of the webcast (use password: 1E&Jg^.5). Or, view the webinar slide deck.