Back to Work in the New Abnormal
With the economy set to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, businesses needs to establish social distancing protocols. We're sharing tips and ideas on how to navigate this unprecedented socioeconomic experiment.
I was recently talking to an agent who is preparing to reopen her agency. All her employees are currently working from home and she wants to ensure that germs don’t spread from employee to employee like wildfire upon reopening. I was impressed by her plan to create three teams of workers and wanted to share it, along with other tips, with others who will be going through the same motions in the coming weeks.
The Rule of Thirds
Segment employees into three groups, with each segment coming into the office for a week, then working from home for two weeks. This allows you to continually cycle your three employee groups out for 14 days (the typical quarantine cycle). If during that time an employee or someone else in their family becomes ill, then the employee would not come into work on their next in-office cycle and would continue to telecommute. This will reduce the probability of spreading the coronavirus to the rest of your staff.
First Things First
Before you set up your three segments of employees, be sure to reach out to all employees and let them know to contact you privately if they might not be able to return to working in the office due to them or a family member having a serious underlying health condition, showing signs of the virus, or have been asked to self-quarantine. If able to telecommute, then they can remain an active employee from afar. But if they are not able to do so (for example, they are stricken with the virus and are unable to work) they may be eligible for employer paid leave or the E-PSL paid leave provided through the FFCRA (see our articles regarding this leave law).
During At-Work Week
Ask your employees to limit their social non-distancing to the week that they work at the office. If they can stock up on supplies and run their errands during the week where they are already leaving their home to come into the office, that will allow them to fully self-quarantine during their next two weeks of working from home. Again, this will reduce the amount of cross-contamination to the rest of your team.
Other Safety Considerations
Additional safety protocols should be put into place, although some may be more easily attained than others. Use this as food for thought rather than a “must do” list. The purpose is to provide some ideas that could spark other things that would work for your office and your team.
Rules and Regulations
There are a number of laws that must be followed, including privacy, workplace safety, accommodations, and more. This includes requirements of OSHA, ADA, and FMLA as well as guidance from the EEOC and CDC. Plus state, county, and local jurisdictions are setting their own rules specific to COVID-19. I was just on a webinar through Sunlife – I highly recommend every employer view this 1.15 hour program prior to bringing employees back to the workplace (they will be posting the recording and slides within a day or two – be sure to watch the video since there is a Q&A throughout that is very enlightening).
The Bottom Line
As you start to open back up, you’ll need to determine what will work best for your agency and your team members. Maybe make it fun. Can you get your logo sewn onto fabric masks? Or get masks in your company’s colors. Order a supply of agency pens so that your customers take your information with them. Schedule a weekly “happy hour” over Zoom so that your staff can still “see” each other weekly regardless of which in-office work team they are on. No doubt it will continue to be stressful as we all adjust to the new abnormal. But the more you do to help employees feel safe and that you care about their continued health, the less anxiety will be attached to returning to the office.
Be Benefits Informed
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I love numbers. I'm a math geek. I read benefits industry articles and periodicals for relaxation (but, honestly, I'm still a fun gal). I also like to share what I've learned and you'll find it all here.