Only weeks ago we were shutting down business operations and mothballing core assets. Now, at unprecedented speed, companies are being asked to restart their engines, to quickly bring national economies back online. The challenge is complicated by uncertainties about the progression of COVID-19 and the social, political, and fiscal actions that it will drive.
Now, employees have different circumstances that can dictate when they can return to an office, however, and supporting your workforce adequately can be daunting.
Here are some things to keep in mind to help you reopen your small business safely, including workplace safely advice from the Ministry of Health.
- As you reopen your small business, keep social distancing guidelines in place.
- Encourage workers and customers to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer frequently.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least once a day and more often in high-traffic areas.
- Provide PPE to your workers if required by your government or if your workers request it, and make a policy that addresses guidelines on proper usage.
- Develop a policy for working from home that treats workers fairly
1. Keep employees engaged.
Communicating regularly with your employees will help them hit the ground running when you do reopen, even if your business isn’t reopening anytime soon, according to panelist Alissa Henriksen, co-president of recruiting firm Grey Search + Strategy. “You can’t go dark during this period no matter the situation you’re in,” she says. “The most important thing is communication.”
She advises sending regular emails, doing video calls, or recommending free online training resources that employees can benefit from until they return to work. Something that’s particularly helpful for parents who no longer have child care is sending links to free tools that keep children busy at home, she added.
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2. Clean and Disinfect
It’s always smart to maintain a clean workspace, but it’s especially important now. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least once a day—and much more frequently in high-traffic areas such as check-out counters or the counter of your office’s kitchen and break areas.
Be sure to clean doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, tables, desks, keyboards, remote controls, elevator buttons, toilets (including handles), faucets, sinks, cash registers/point of sale (POS), displays, business equipment, and phones. Encourage workers to clean their personal phones, too, as well as any other equipment they bring from home into the workplace.
Of course, all these cleanings and disinfecting supplies can be dangerous if not used properly. Be sure to provide guidelines for using them safely and provide the proper equipment—such as gloves and masks—and adequate ventilation to limit chemical exposure. Better yet, hire professional cleaners who already have safety systems in place.
3. Follow Social Distancing Guidelines
By now, everyone has heard of social distancing—when you stay at least 1-meter away from other people, stay away from crowded places, and avoid gathering in groups.
“Limiting face-to-face contact with others is the best way to reduce the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”says the Ministry of Health and Wellness
While social distancing is a proven and effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19, it can be difficult to maintain in the workplace. Still, social distancing is the new norm and will be for the foreseeable future. Depending on your workspace, here are some ways to help employees and customers keep a safe distance:
- Rethink desks, displays, and workspaces to create more distance.
- Move some staff to different workstations or stagger work hours to limit the number of workers in one area at any given time.
- Limit the number of seats in common areas.
- In places where workers or customers wait in lines, use tape to mark the 1-metre distance.
- Place signs or use announcements to remind workers and customers to maintain social distance.
- Manage breakrooms to limit the number of people who gather at one time.
- Encourage workers to skip previously customary greetings like handshakes, hugs, and cheek-kisses.
- Post signs outside the workplace that advises people not to enter if they’ve had COVID-19 symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has been infected.
💡Tip: Set a good example for your workers and customers. If you’re asking them to wear a mask, you should, too.