Guest Column | August 27, 2020

How Do Workers Return To The Workplace And Stay Safe?

By Jessica Larson,

Corona COVID

The global pandemic has stoked fear, insecurity, and concern for businesses and individuals worldwide. Uncertainty has dominated the lives of millions quarantined at home, many of that number working remotely.

Even as coronavirus cases spike in some places, businesses elsewhere are reopening, and many people are returning to the workplace for the first time in months. If your workplace is among these numbers, it’s important to know how to re-emerge safely. Here are some ideas to deal with the current reopening climate:

Keep Your Staff Healthy

Jumping back into the traditional workplace means workers will be exposed to countless new people and new germs. While this certainly can be frightening, following CDC-recommended guidelines can help to keep everyone safe.

Post reminders for employees to wash hands regularly with hot, soapy water, and to use hand sanitizer when handwashing isn’t possible. Also encourage staff to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other people and wear a mask whenever social distancing isn’t possible.

If workers see any situations that feel unsafe in the workplace, they have the right to speak to a supervisor or HR rep about remedying the situation. Respond to all concerns promptly and compassionately.

Maintain Relationships

Work relationships may have suffered during the quarantine. Being separated from co-workers and clients for several months can impact those relationships; now more than ever, it’s important to rekindle them as your company moves forward.

Cultivating client relationships is vital in boosting sales and business as your company reopens. Personal relationships, meanwhile, are key to nurturing and growing anyone’s professional network. Reach out to people, even if it’s just with a quick email or handwritten note.

Renovate For Social Distancing

Most workplace facilities will require some reconfiguration before people can work inside them again. Initial inspections of ventilation and HVAC systems should be followed by reconfiguration of spaces to see that they comply with social-distancing requirements. Also, barriers and/or signage should be installed to provide distancing cues to workers, vendors, customers, and any other facility guests.

Your company may need to undertake renovations before reopening to transform workspaces and common spaces accordingly. To deal with jettisoned furniture and demolition debris, renting a dumpster is a great way to make quick work of trash. A small bin can cost as little as $300 a week (depending on your location) and generally includes hands-free delivery and haul-off.

Be Prepared For Pay Cuts

As businesses deal with virus-imposed challenges, the resulting layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts have become more common. Address any drastic changes promptly with compassion, candor, and transparency.

Once the bad news is delivered, do whatever you can to assist employees with financial resources that could help, such as info on devising and adjusting home budgets, cutting expenses, or saving for an emergency fund. If your firm offers any emergency economic aid programs for furloughed or laid-off workers, make sure they know.

Help Keep Finances In Check

Now more than ever, regardless of their employment or income status, it’s imperative for employees to have their finances under control — and your company can help. For example, you could provide your employees with information on accessing and monitoring their credit reports or consolidating debt.

Or perhaps the HR department could host a lunchtime seminar or online tutorial on financial literacy topics, such as budgeting software, credit-building strategies, or advice for first-time investors. The less your workers worry about money, the more productive they’ll be.

Offer Emergency Protection

As much as we try to plan, life is all about the unexpected. If employees are already struggling to make it month to month amid the financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic, having an emergency in their homes can be catastrophic. Replacing a broken HVAC or repairing home damage can be expensive, especially if traditional homeowners’ insurance won’t pay for it.

Many people opt for a home warranty to help cover home emergencies that home insurance will not. With home warranty coverage, a homeowner can repair or replace broken appliances and systems without having to dip into their savings. If your company can offer access to such a plan, especially at a reduced price, do so. Your employees will thank you.

Be Flexible

Navigating an unprecedented pandemic has required unprecedented flexibility — and returning to the workplace will be no exception. It’s bound to look quite different from the one everyone left behind.

Likely, some people won’t be returning to work, and day-to-day operations might need to change, so encourage employees to stay flexible when it comes to job duties. Some may be taking on duties previously performed by several people, while others may be doing something completely different from what they’re used to.

Do what you can to help workers keep an open mind and stay flexible. Though uncomfortable, change can offer people a chance to grow and expand their skillset, making the learner more valuable to the company — not to mention a more capable person in general. It also doesn’t hurt to remind staff that an expanded arsenal of skills can leave them better prepared to take advantage of a promotion or career opportunity in their future.

Returning to the workplace following months of quarantine can be scary and intimidating. But by following some basic advice and approaching changes with an open mind, it’s possible to return to the workplace safely.

About The Author

Jessica Larson is a married Midwestern mom and a solopreneur. She creates online courses for students, and she has started and run several other businesses over the years. Her goals are to support her family while still actually spending time with them, to act as an entrepreneurial role model for her two daughters, and to share what she has learned through The Solopreneur Journal.