Develop a Pandemic Plan:
Your employees want to know what employers will do when and if another Pandemic happens. Do you have a plan to communicate with your employees? Do you have an incident reporting system? (See attached). How will you respond when employees are back to work? What is your policy on employees coming to work sick? What is your plan when someone has tested positive for COVID-19? How will you, as an employer, respond to an employee, you have a positive COVID-19? Will you have everyone quarantine? Will you have all employees tested? What is your plan if employees don’t want to come to work for safety reasons? Much more.
Employee Health & Safety.
Create a plan to handle sick employees and encourage safe behaviors for good hygiene and infection control. That includes hand-washing, making hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment (PPE) readily available, and being prepared to stay up to date on the latest guidance from the CDC and other professionals on best practices. Check out OSHA guidelines. Follow proper contact-tracing steps if workers get sick to curb the spread of COVID-19. The CDC has guidance for contact tracing, including training plans. Before employees return, disinfect the workplace. That means having all surfaces cleaned, considering air purification systems, and other precautions. Make sure you have a plan for regularly disinfecting the workplace. Also, make any physical alterations needed for physical distancing, such as spreading out desks and workspaces and analyzing whether confined spaces like conference rooms or individual offices are safe for more than one person to be in at a time. There should be people in charge of maintaining these physical alterations, as the hustle and bustle of the workplace might move those alterations or prove they are inadequate
Assessment of your business needs
Outline the main factors your organization is using as guidance to provide a simple structure to the extremely complex return-to-work decision. What are the employee schedules, and what employee jobs do you need now? (i.e.Sanitation). The more organized you are before you start rolling out these new policies and procedures and bringing people back into the workplace, the better able you will be to handle unexpected complications and unforeseen consequences. Rather than having everyone rush back to the office all at once, consider creating a phased transition to return to work aligned with risk and exposure levels. Here are a few suggestions:
Have a certain percentage of the workforce come in on certain days. For example, have 50% of your employees come in on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The rest could come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Then switch every other week. All these will prevent your office from being crowded.
Have specific percentages come in each week for a week. For example, have 25% of your employees come in for a week and get trained and used to new safety procedures. Then have them work from home the next week, and bring a different 25% in for the same thing. By the end of the month, you will have everyone trained while minimizing exposure. Then you can switch to another schedule.
Develop a communications plan to be open and transparent with workers on your return-to-work process. Consider a multifaceted communication approach. That includes e-mails, announcements on the intranet, social media posts, and even phone calls and text messages to your employees. Get all managers on board with your plan so you can better coordinate your efforts. Consider weekly zoom meeting on the status of the business. Encourage employees to post about your business and the steps you are taking to help employees and CUSTOMERS. What is your company doing for your customers related to COVID19 or any other pandemic? Do you have any recognition programs for engaging employees and customers?
Commit to supporting the mental and emotional health of your workers by sharing support resources and policies. That includes reexamining what mental health-related benefits your organizations offer and effectively communicating the existence of those benefits to your employees. Make sure you stress the discrete nature of many of those benefits to help combat a lack of participation due to anxiety of retaliation or being exposed. Have managers check in with employees. A check-in also includes how the employee’s families are coping. If you have an Employee Assistance Program, offer it and if you do not consider implementing one. CDC and health departments offer several resources. Many non-profits provide these services as well. Do not underestimate the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health and well-being, as employees will feel the effects of the pandemic long after it is over. Are your managers checking in individually with their employees? Do they understand each employee’s concerns? What are the concerns of the employee’s family? What are the employee’s feedback mechanisms to the company?
Training-Supervisors and Managers:
Train leaders and supervisors not only on the fundamentals of safety, such as risk assessment and hazards but also on the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health and well-being, as employees will feel the effects of the pandemic long after it is over. How do you make sure you adjust your training as new guidance and procedures become available. Consider methods of reinforcing training on a regular schedule. Are they checking in individually for employees? Do they understand each employee’s concerns? What are the concerns of the employee’s family? What are the employee’s feedback mechanisms? Train supervisors and managers on empathy so they can relate to the employee and family issues.
Training-Employees on Customer relations and customer service:
Train employees on post-COVID customer service. Do they know the state laws? Do they know how to answers customer questions regarding the fundamentals of safety, such as risk assessment and hazards? How does an employee respond to customer’s refusals on wearing masks, social distancing, etc.? Do your employees know what your guidelines are and have you trained them on conflict skills. Have you developed a system for employees to ask questions regarding client issues? Do you send those responses to your entire workforce as a learning mechanism?
Notify employees in advance of the return to work, and consider categorizing workers into different groups based on job roles, bringing groups back one at a time. Be careful about how you classify workers, ensuring you are not grouping people based on a protected class. Make sure you are sensitive to employees who might be at a higher risk of having severe complications should they contract COVID-19. Brush up on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and workers’ compensation and other laws that pertain to such individuals to be certain you are both being sensitive to the needs of your employees and protecting yourself from litigation. Make sure you comply with wage and hour laws if employees work from home. Understand the COVID complaint process for 500 employees and less. Post The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s (Department) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. These provisions will apply from the effective date through December 31, 2020.
Generally, the Act provides that employees of covered employers are eligible for employers under 500 employees:
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor; and
- Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID
Benchmark others in your industry:
Compare business processes and performance metrics to your industry and best practices from other companies. Check how they are handling all of the above areas, particularly employee engagement/communication. Engage with your chambers to learn the best practices on what to do in your industry.