The events of December 2019 have changed the world in countless ways. The outbreak of the novel Covid-19 led to the closure of public facilities, schools, religious premises, the ban of international and local travel in some countries, and many other things. These actions combined have crippled many economies. It is projected that about 25 million jobs could be lost as a result of the outbreak. Seeing the downward trend and the potential threat to their economies, governments started pumping the stimulus package in different sectors in a bid to cushion the economy.
Recently, many states have been embracing the idea of reopening their economies. The Covid-19 pandemic is far from over, but there is a need to salvage what has been left. Businesses understand this, and they know that it will not be a smooth sail bringing their employees back to work. The global health is at stake, and there is a need to be in touch with the regulatory compliance relevant to going back to business amidst the threat of Covid-19.
Careful thought and consideration need to be taken by businesses with plans of getting their employees back to work. Back to work programs should be able to cover regulations and compliance to prevent the spread of Covid-19, motivate employees, and incorporate technological systems in workplace operations. Before getting back to work, here are the things that organizations should be thinking about.
1. Designing a back to work program specific to your business
As an employer, you need to look at the nature of your ventures, its needs, and what your back to work program will look like. Note that different businesses reacted differently to the outbreak of the pandemic. While some companies had to lay off some of its workforces, others made them work remotely, and others completely closed business to wait until the pandemic is over.
Back to work programs are designed to help businesses go back to their normal production and financial space. At this point, you will weigh your options and ask yourself if you need all your employees on-site or have them work remotely. In order to stick to the regulatory requirements, you might also have to consider if your employees will work on rotation and so on. Businesses are unique, and defining what back to work will mean for them will take different paths.
While making decisions on how this will work for your business, it is also essential to think about the employment laws as they have to be adhered to as well.
2. Ensuring social distance
The back to work programs is not being implemented because safety has been achieved. Covid-19 is still there, but there is a need to save the economy. There is no cure or vaccine yet, and people need to continue taking preventive measures to prevent the spread of the virus. While designing your back to work program, you should be thinking of the ways you can ensure that you comply with the social distancing regulations.
The question you should be asking is how your business can see to it that physical distance regulations are maintained. Will you be required to change the way your workplace is designed? Will you need to change the layout of the office furniture? Will you be required to convert the conference room into work stations? At some point, you will have to suspend your weekly meetings or attend them virtually while at individual work stations. The other way could be having only a few employees needed physically at the office, and the others are working from home. You need to explore all the available options and come up with suitable strategies to ensure that the best social distancing practices are upheld.
3. Avoidance of discrimination while enforcing Covid-19 mitigation practices
There is a likelihood of going against employment laws regarding discrimination while enforcing Covid-19 regulations. In the process, there is a likelihood of attracting legal issues. While setting consequences for non-compliance, a lot of consideration has to be put on how far they can go. Consequences such as termination should be thought through and evaluated to determine if they are really necessary.
While setting policies, people with disabilities, among many other issues, must be considered and included fairly. Different regulations for vulnerable groups should also be put in place. People more susceptible to having severe cases of infection should, for instance, allowed to work from home for more days.
While setting any Covid-19 back to work guidelines, serious consideration needs to be put in order to avoid legal concerns and discrimination.
4. Updating workforce guidelines
Going back to work will call for some changes when it comes to workforce guidelines. At some point, organizations will have to forego whatever measures and procedures they have in place. Federal governments have come up with both temporary and permanent new laws that will definitely change how the business will be done.
As much as most of them will work in the opposite direction as your policies, it is still vital to maintain compliance to avoid legal issues, and most importantly, to ensure safety at the workplace. There are many areas in which you will require to make updates. Sick leaves need to meet the current standards, protection policies, and many other things that will require revision and be aligned to the federal regulations.
Also, as time goes by, lawmakers can introduce new procedures depending on the developments made in the mitigation of Covid-19. Before implementing the back to work program, you should ask yourself if you are ready to incorporate the changes into your system. You should also be thinking of creating a task force that will be keeping up with the changes and incorporating them into your policies.
5. Adhering to CDC protocols in the prevention of Covid-19
CDC has been on the frontline of battling Covid-19 since the virus emerged. Through research and many studies, the agency has understood the virus better and known how it is spread and can be prevented. In this spirit, the CDC has come up with a set of guidelines and protocols that every individual and organization can adhere to in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
Some of the CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of Covid-19 at the workplace include conducting daily health checks, a hazard assessment, implementing social distancing at the workplace, and encouraging wearing protective clothing such as facemasks. The guidelines cover personal protective equipment, administrative controls, and engineering controls.
All these protocols are geared at preventing and slowing down the spread of Covid-19, particularly at the workplace.
At this point, you should be thinking of creating an implementation team and asking yourself who would make the best fit. Guidelines regarding cleaning, sanitization, and hygiene should be set, and monitoring techniques also be put in place.
6. Plan on potential liabilities
Note that Covid-19 is a highly -contagious disease. As your employees commute home or interact with friends and family from other occupations, there is a chance that they can get infected. You should be prepared for such events. What happens when an employee contracts the virus while on your premises? Will you take liability? Will you set liability waivers for people visiting your premises? How are you going to ensure the safety of the occupants of the premises in case there is a reported positive case within? How are you going to prove the safety of employees or visitors after an occupant test positive?
Note that if such risks take place, there will be the need for isolating the employees for a minimum of days, you should have a clear plan on what will happen during this time? Will you compensate the employees or anyone involved for the time they will be away? What happens to their roles at the workplace during isolation?
There should be proper planning on how liability risks will be handled.
7. Managing issues with remuneration
The truth of the matter is, it has been a tough time for businesses, and many are struggling to meet their revenue projections. As earlier mentioned, over 25 million jobs are expected to be lost due to the pandemic. This is a clear indicator of the financial impact the pandemic has. There are so many layoffs taking place, salary cuts, and furloughs, among many other challenges to do with employee compensation.
The challenges have been there for quite a while, and they are still ongoing. At this point, there might be a need to revise employee contracts and guidelines regarding salaries. For instance, for the companies that have reduced the employees’ working hours, there is the option of reducing the compensation and aligning them with the number of hours employees can work in a day.
If you are giving employees a temporary leave to get the space to combat the existing economic challenges, you should ask if it will be paid leave, or not a paid one. Will you have to do away with the redundant roles at this point? All these are questions you should ask. At the same time, you should be thinking of the legal issues you might find yourself in if you violate the terms of employment contracts.
Profit-making being the primary goal of the existence of an organization; you should be looking at ways that you can keep your company afloat. One of the areas to assess will be salaries and remuneration.
The pandemic has shed light on the importance of being able to handle communication at the workplace. Teamwork is vital if your organization is to effectively control the spread of Covid-19 and keep your workforce safe. Things will not be smooth after your employees come back to work. There are challenges that they have been facing since you closed operations, and there will be new challenges awaiting even after they resume work.
Effective communication will make it possible for your employees to voice their concerns so that they may be addressed and eliminate resistance for resuming operations. Feedback on the state of affairs in the field and at the workplace is also critical as it will help you point out the problematic areas and resolve them to make employees more comfortable.
With a streamlined communication channel, transitioning and adjusting to the new workplace environment will be easy for the employees. Through teamwork, adherence to new protocols and procedures geared to protect the workforce will be easy to follow through.
9. Creating a task-force
A lot has changed and is expected to change. This means it takes a team effort to successfully resume operations and comply with the set guidelines regarding back-to-work during this pandemic. This will require a team that will be dedicated to communication, implementation, and monitoring in light of the management of Covid-19 at the workplace.
You should ask yourself the best people to have on the team, which is also capable of taking the organization forward. Decisions will require the input of all the departments available. Sound, foolproof, and swift decisions will only be made if individual departments chipped in. A decision-making team representative of all the departments in your organization.
This will give you the opportunity to have an in-depth assessment of the potential challenges you are likely to face while implementing back to work programs and the best steps to take in mitigating them. Things will be done faster and more effectively.
10. Testing and monitoring symptoms
Employees would be comfortable if there were a way for the organization to ensure that the occupants of the premises were not infected. This calls for testing procedures such as measuring temperature before anyone is let into the premises. Self-monitoring should also be encouraged among employees in order to keep themselves and their colleagues safe.
As an organization looking to go back to work, these are the considerations you need to think about. Resuming operations will not be smooth sailing, but proper planning will be a step in the right direction.
Paul Singh, MHA, BA
Office: 855-Plant-Rx (Toll Free 1-855-752-6879)
Covid Antibody Diagnostics™
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