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Transitioning Back to the Workplace Part 3 of 4

Getting small businesses back in business and employees returning to work is a priority to get the economy back up and running as well as to help people start the process of getting back to some sense of normal. But things aren’t “normal” and getting employees back to work isn’t as easy as it sounds. To help with that, we are putting out a 4 part series that touches on a variety of things that small business must consider when planning their return to work strategies.


In our first part of the series, we talked assessing the work arrangements of your small business and what that looks like now and in the future. You can read part 1 here.


In our second part of the series, we looked at the policies, procedures and documentation that should be either created or reassessed to make sure they align with the new workplace. You can read part 2 here.


This is the third part of the series and this part of the series is related to preparing the physical work environment and guidelines to follow to help keep employees safe and feeling comfortable. What we knew about the workplace is not, and cannot be, what we go back to. Even the design of the workplace will be different to create distance and safe spaces for employees.


Let’s take a look at some of the factors to consider when returning employee to the physical environment:


· Deep clean & sanitize workstations and common areas – The Centers for Disease Control has issued guidance and recommendations on how to best to clean and sanitize the workplace and the various types of surfaces and materials throughout the work environment. You can find those guidelines here. Regular cleaning and communication to employees about what is being done to keep the environment clean and safe is another part of the process. This will help ease fear and anxiety that they may feel about returning to the work environment.


· Provide sanitary wipes and hand sanitizer throughout the workplace – Depending on the industry or work environment, providing these may be required under OSHA guidelines. For other industries, providing these items help support employee well bring and promotes regular cleanliness responsibility on the part of everyone.


· Ensure office technology, internet, key fobs and other equipment are running – Outside of cleaning and adjusting the work environment for safe distancing of employees, making sure that all of the company equipment is up and running and function properly will help employees ease back into work.


· Post the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) required posting – The FFCRA was effective April 1, 2020 and is applicable to all companies with less than 500 employees. With the new Act, there is a required posting that outlines the Employee Rights under the FFCRA. This should have already been provided to active employees either by placing in the workplace with the other required postings or by sending it via email or in a shared network drive in a remote environment. With the workplace opening back up, it is required to have the posting up for employees with the other workplace postings. The FFCRA Employee Rights posting, along with other required federal postings can be on here on the Department of Labor website.


· Establish common area and shared supplies guidelines. Post guidelines in common areas – Most work environments have break rooms and office supply areas that are areas that all employees use and have access to. It is recommended to eliminate shared kitchenware such as mugs, silverware and the like. Encourage employees to use their own mugs or kitchen items or utilize disposable items as well as outline guidelines around maintaining a safe distance in common areas. Communicate these guidelines and post them in the common areas to remind and encourage employees to follow the new work rules. OSHA has a 10 steps postings available to help small businesses reduce risk that can be found here.


· Consider whether or not to provide masks or any other personal protective equipment – Similar to sanitizer and wipes, depending on the industry and company, this may be required under OSHA to provide masks or other personal protective equipment so it is important to know if this applies to your small business or not. Even if not required by OSHA, it is recommended to provide masks to employees and encourage them to wear them at work to help protect everyone.

There are a lot of things to consider and many steps for companies to take to safely open and bring employees back into the work environment. It can get even more complex depending on the industry, but there are a variety of resources available to provide the guidance needed to support getting back to business. Here are a couple that we found to be the most helpful and breaks down the information by industry. We recommended looking at the resources available on both of these sites and ensuring that your small businesses is informed, prepared and ready to open.


https://www.backtoworksafely.org/

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/additional_resources.html


Employers Advantage LLC is here to help guide your small business through this information and getting set up to get back to business. We understand that this can be overwhelming and a lot of information to take in, so we are here for you.

Next week will be our 4th and final part of the series in which we will talk about providing employee support and helping them understand the new work environment.

Be well - Deanna

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