Making plans for reopening your business? Consider these safety steps
- Decide who to bring back, who will continue telework, when and how to return employees to the workplace.
- Health and safety considerations to plan for, from physical spacing to break room food and dishes.
- How to safely admit customers and vendors.
Our work world has turned on its axis. The coronavirus has changed just about every aspect of our marketplace, from our commute and how our workspaces will be arranged, to business travel and how we communicate.
The return-to-work process will look different for companies based on size, industry, geography, demographics and countless unique business factors.
No doubt your insurance clients are eager to return to normalcy. However, reopening a business requires careful thought and consideration, not only to protect employees but also your business.
Use this two-part blogpost as a tool in your response-to-recovery process. Share it with your commercial clients. Today we’re focusing on if and how to bring employees back plus health and safety considerations. Next week, we’ll cover specifics on preparing your workplace and new policies/procedures to consider. We’ve compiled these checklists, tips, safety suggestions and more from 20+ experts. While we are not experts in this arena, we are passing along the curated information for your consideration.
First, please understand that medical teams are still learning about COVID-19, so the path to recovery will remain fluid. Continue to follow any local, state or national guidance as it relates to safety, guidelines and recommendations. The information included here is to help guide you, but it does not replace any guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), United States Department of Labor, OSHA or local and state laws or guidance.
Use this checklist as you make plans for reopening your business
Bringing employees back, or allow them to remain remote
Moving forward, companies are likely to allow more employees to work from home, depending on their industry and services. Some could even make entire operations remote once their office leases are up. Nationwide has announced it’s shutting down five offices, allowing more employees to continue working from home.
A California Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau committee recently approved new classification codes for telecommuters, as trends continue shifting towards telework vs. returning to the office, reports WorkCompCentral.com. Officials predict this trend will only continue as part of a new normal business environment.
A Brookings Institute study released in April says roughly half of working Americans were doing so from home. In May, that number increased to 64 percent, according to a study by SHRM and Oxford Economics. The study also predicts that telecommuting nationwide will continue long after the fallout from COVID-19 has subsided.
If your business decides to keep their centralized workspaces, you’ll need to rethink your office design to keep people working together while physically apart. Consider eliminating open floorplans and shared workspaces in favor of closed off cubicles. Consider the following issues as you return employees to work.
Timeline for bringing employees back
- Decide who needs to be on-site or rehired for business to function normally.
- Devise a plan beyond onsite essential functions for gradual headcount returns where possible.
- Communicate which positions are returning first (and why) and a timeline for others returning or being rehired.
- Consult your legal and insurance advisors for assistance and options to guide your decision in whether to return employees to work following an injury or illness.
- Avoid discrimination if not all employees are returning to work.
Health & safety of returning employees when reopening your business
As you reopen, and for the foreseeable future, will you evaluate and monitor employee health as it relates to COVID-19? Consult your attorney on intended onsite screening practices or protocol to ensure known liabilities are weighed. Considerations include:
- Conducting temperature or employee wellness checks at the start of shifts/each business day to ensure employees do not exhibit the most common Covid-19 symptoms (fever >100.4o F, cough, shortness of breath/ difficulty breathing). OSHA recommends that any worker exhibiting symptoms should be isolated until (s)he can leave work or seek medical care.
- Asking employees about their health status before they return to the workplace or from a sick leave (even if they were out with a headache). Will you require certification by a health care professional of ability to safely return to the workplace?
- Will you require employees to self-report and/or will you be retaining a third party to facilitate any onsite screening efforts? Business risks and liabilities must be considered to this regard.
How will you assess physical limitations and provide reasonable accommodation? What will your process be for limited duty or transitional assignments to safely bring back employees with slight impairments? Here are other considerations to keep employees healthy:
- Consider staggering break periods and rearrange seating in break areas to maintain physical distance.
- Update travel policies to adhere to state quarantine guidelines.
- Update any meeting policies as needed, using teleconferencing where possible.
- Review benefits policies for rehire/reinstatement provisions and equally assess eligibility and waiting periods.
- Revise remote work / childcare policies and accommodations as needed.
- Review/ revise leave and sick policies:
- Determine whether the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) applies to your organization, your existing policies and practices.
- Incorporate guidance for employees experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or are diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Consider whether there is a need for temporarily implementing PTO/vacation rollovers, grace periods and changes to expiring PTO terms.
Manage the return-to-work and communications
You may want to create an implementation team or appoint an individual to oversee your return-to-work program, procedures, guidelines and accountabilities. Consider including a senior executive, HR leader, safety officer, risk manager, information technology, operations, facilities, communications, finance, legal and benefits managers. Of course, this group will vary based on the complexity and size of your organization. You’ll also want to consider:
- Appointing a contact person to oversee communications of ongoing safety and security measures and to answer employee questions. This person should be part of your implementation team.
- Communicating what changes will be made in common areas, including food, beverages, utensils, glassware, etc.
- Adding or revisiting a clean desk policy so unnecessary items are stored in the desk and not on work surfaces, to enable new or ongoing deep clean efforts.
Safely allow customers and vendors
- If reopening your business means you’ll have visitors coming in, OSHA recommends using tape to mark areas on the floor where lines should form. Also use tape to mark six-foot distances.
- Revise guest and visitor policies, including limiting access to certain parts of the buildings, separate entrances and specific meeting rooms or restroom access.
- Restaurants and retail stores should offer curbside delivery or drive-through service instead of in-store pick-up. If using curbside delivery, ask customers to stay in their vehicles in the parking lot while they wait.
- Provide on-site services to customer’s facility once their business is closed (after hours).
- Add plastic barriers/shields at registers.
- Add six-foot distance markers at registers or commonly congested areas.
- Request health and travel assessments for vendors and contractors coming on-site.
- Separate contractors and vendors from the workforce, such as having them use separate bathrooms and entrances, if possible.
- Prohibit nonessential vendors and deliveries from entering the facility.
- Require deliveries to be dropped outside facility door, eliminating vendors from entering the facility.
Much of the above information was provided by Brown & Brown’s Return to the Workplace Guide & Checklist. Additional resources include
Here’s what the future of work will look like
The office as we know it is dead
Zurich’s coronavirus knowledge hub
Sign Here First: Reopening Businesses Turn to Liability Waivers, Disclaimers
Managing risk as businesses reopen after COVID-19
6-Feet Social Distancing Workplaces Are Increasingly Likely
U.S. Employers Wary of Coronavirus ‘Immunity’ Tests as They Move to Reopen
A consumer’s guide to disinfecting after COVID-19
CDC Issues Guidance for Reopening Businesses
CDC Posts Advice on Reopening U.S. Bars, Restaurants and Workplaces
Additional COVID-19 Reopening Guidelines from CDC, OSHA, and Cal/OSHA
Access to care and return-to-work safety during a pandemic
Top health and safety concerns for reopening businesses
3 Things To Consider In Preparation For Future Waves Of The Coronavirus
Bringing select workers back carries litigation risks: Experts
EEOC expands COVID-19 workplace guidance