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Workforce Safety: Tips for Reopening Business Post COVID-19

By June 29, 2020 No Comments

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching and unexpected impacts on the world’s economy. Many offices quickly transitioned to remote operations to help protect workers and to comply with lock down orders. Others switched to a skeleton team in the office, with many workers coming into the office in shifts and just a selection of employees or departments working remotely. Whatever your business arrangement during the pandemic has been, it is likely different than normal operations.

While some organizations are choosing to make remote work more permanent, many are moving towards or have already begun reopening their offices or business to their employees and/or the public. As this process begins, it is important to educate team members with the new policies, practices, or workforce safety protocols that will be set in place moving forward in order to ensure the health, wellness, and happiness of your team as well as customers. The following tips will help you to create and implement an effective strategy for workforce safety when reopening business.

Plan for Social Distancing

First and foremost, think about how your office can accommodate social distancing. Although the lock down efforts appear to have slowed the spread of COVID-19, it can still pose a threat if the proper precautions are not taken.

Continue to practice social distancing and ensure that people can remain six feet apart in all places of your office or business. This may require rearranging some work spaces or limiting the number of occupants in certain rooms. It’s also important to consider common areas and break rooms as these are often more social spaces with closer proximity to one another. Remember that some people will be more comfortable than others upon reopening. When possible, try to arrange the workspace in a way that will enable people to be mindful of their own health needs.

Provide returning team members with clear guidelines on the social distancing practices or protocols that will be established upon reopening business. OSHA has established a COVID-19 Guidance on Social Distancing at Work that can be easily added to your compliance learning plans. Whether these rules will be enforced just initially or indefinitely, it is essential that team members are fully aware of what’s expected in order to make the workplace a safe environment for everyone.

Offer Remote Work When Possible

You can greatly improve the effectiveness of social distancing and safe work practices by providing the opportunity for remote work. Of course, certain businesses require on-site work (restaurants, for example). However, if possible, provide employees with the opportunity to work from home for at least part of their work week. This will enable your most at-risk employees to successfully socially distance. Not to mention, having a robust work-from-home policy empowers your business to continue even in the face of unexpected disasters such as weather events or diseases.

Learning & Development (L&D) is one of the key business functions that can be rolled out remotely. L&D is valuable for practically any role, department, or type of organization and can be leveraged remotely easily – even in larger, more complex organizations. eLearning helps managers support a virtual workforce by keeping employees informed and creating the opportunity for employees to learn and acquire new skill sets digitally, while also helping employers diversify learning content and better connect teams.

Additionally, some shifts in operational structure can help you leverage remote work and continue proper workforce safety precautions and social distancing. Some organizations are operating at 50% capacity, using alternating schedules to give each employee office time. Alternatively, some organizations are simply letting anyone who wants to work from home to do so.

Even if you plan to have the entire team back in the office, consider a phased process. It takes time for people to adjust to new workforce safety rules.

Update Cleaning Policies

Keeping a clean workplace is one of the best ways to curtail the possible spread of disease. The virus that causes COVID-19 can stay on surfaces for hours or even days. The Center for Disease Control recommends establishing a thorough but pragmatic cleaning policy using EPA-approved disinfectants.

Whether your office has a custodial team or not, establishing a cleaning schedule for employees to follow can ensure they are keeping work areas clean and sanitary. Identify the highest risk areas and focus cleaning on those. These will be surfaces that are used frequently or that are contacted by customers or other visitors. Rarely used locations such as storage rooms require less frequent cleaning. Ensuring employees follow new policies may require some additional sanitation trainings or new OSHA requirements, but it is incredibly crucial in keeping the workplace safe and clean.

Establish Rules for Team Members

Employees need specific guidelines for how to interact and behave in the workplace post-COVID-19. Most professionals have long-established habits that they have followed for years or decades. These habits may not be appropriate when reopening business spaces in the current state.

Part of preparing an effective plan is to develop manageable but effective rules. This may include requiring face masks in certain areas or all the time, for example. It may also include expectations about cleaning communal areas after use as mentioned previously.

Social distancing is perhaps the most important element of this. Again, some people are naturally going to be more comfortable than others. To prevent more cavalier team members from putting their wearier colleagues on edge, create some rules for maintaining distance that everyone can follow. Consider adding signage to the workplace to encourage rule-following. Additionally, think about supplying masks to team members. Be sure to train employees on any policy changes as requirements may change over time.

Create and Communicate a Clear Plan

The above considerations hopefully have helped to illuminate the basics of a plan for your returning workforce. However, knowing what you want to achieve is not enough. It needs to be translated into actionable policy and properly communicated.

Consider breaking your policies down into easy-to-remember rules and focusing on educating your team on best practices for adhering to them for however long may be necessary. For example, you may implement the following rules:

  • Wash hands regularly
  • Observe social distancing guidelines (six feet)
  • Wear a face mask

This can be turned into the acronym WOW. While this may seem silly, it can help people to remember what’s expected of them. Simple guidelines like that are much easier to manage than complex and confusing rule sets.

However you choose to codify your new rules, they need to be clearly communicated to everyone. Ideally, they should be both posted in the workspace and send via email. Better yet, create and offer a training course via your learning management system.

Offer Remote Training

As mentioned, supporting remote work can help your people to maintain social distancing to some extent even after reopening. Providing remote learning solutions should be part of that. Check out eThink’s webinar “Creating a Sustainable Remote Workplace Learning Environment With Totara Learn” to find out more about establishing remote learning or explore our LMS solutions Moodle, Moodle Workplace, and Totara for supporting your staff remotely.

Explore Products

Whether you have an existing eLearning solution or not, establish a learning program for your post- COVID-19 rules and practices when reopening business. Include in this some of the reasons why respecting the rules is important (some team members may be at extra risk, etc.) as well as courses that can provide best practices for mitigating spread according to the latest guidelines from medical experts. Many eLearning companies are offering free courses around COVID-19 trainings as well as remote work best practices. For example, check out the courses being offered by eThink’s content partner, Vado, here.

Effective training is one of the most important elements of running a robust, organized and safe business. With these and other COVID-19 eLearning resources available on your LMS, you can provide your team members with the information they need to stay safe at work.

For more information, contact eThink or request an individual demonstration below.

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