We’re almost back to work. But not before a few challenges. Are you ready to make the changes necessary to get back to ‘normal’? What does normal even mean? How can you prepare yourself and your staff?
Following our last blogs on approaching HR initiatives, keeping your payroll under control during the pandemic, and steps to complete a pre-return financial checkup on your business, we’d like to start showing you what a ‘return to normalcy’ should look like.
Depending on the scope of your role, you may have a varying level of responsibility for HR initiatives. Maybe you just have to sign the checks and plan the cash flow, maybe you work closely with HR, or maybe you have a larger role than that. Any way you look at it, you play some kind of role in ensuring a safe, healthy, and efficient return to a somewhat-normal working environment.
Well, now is the time to start planning if you haven’t done so already. With even the slowest-to-respond states beginning their pivot to ‘normal’, the steps you take now can define whether the transition is smooth or rocky.
It Starts with Safety: Take a Diligent Look At Health, Safety, and Legal Issues
One of the main reasons that localities have been slow to respond is the expected ‘return to normal’ spike in COVID-19 cases. Remember, the original reason stay at home orders were implemented was to flatten the curve (i.e. not put undue strain on the healthcare system). It’s impossible to prevent all new cases from occurring.
Returning to normal will come with inevitable new cases of COVID-19. Understandably, the goal will be to mitigate transmission at your office, warehouse, or facility. Both employees and customers need to trust your business, and it will be important to instill that trust in everything you do.
Announce Your Return-to-Work Date
With the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought, it’s important to give clear information and dates when employees are to return to work whenever possible. Be sure to be flexible with your dates, though, as local and state orders are frequently updated.
Prepare Signs and Plan Screening
With the return to work date set, you need to start getting your facilities in order. Start printing and posting informative signage, decide whether you need to screen workers and/or customers as they come in contact with your facility and your confidentiality policies around doing so.
Plan for the Worst
You always need a contingency plan. If a worker does come down with the COVID, you need to have a plan in place to address this. Decide whether you will close offices before you return to work, draft internal communications that you hope you don’t have to send, and craft your strategy for addressing the event.
You’re operating in a ‘new normal’, even if you hate that phrase. This means you will need to make some change to your operations.
Develop and Communicate New Procedures for Calling in Sick
When the first symptom is a dry cough, it’s better to be cautious. Luckily, we’ve gotten accustomed to working from home, so for most businesses, it’s okay to be overly cautious and allow sick days. Ensure you’ve communicated explicitly about how employees should report to human resources if they become sick or start experiencing any symptoms.
Discuss Your Safety Plan with Employees and Train Them on New Procedures
The first step will be to develop a training plan for employees. Much like any safety plan or employee handbook document, this plan will provide all of the pertinent information and policies that you have set, or are required by the State, that you, your employees, and your customers will need to be aware of and practice daily. Walk through duties and responsibilities of employees as they return to work. Have employees sign the plan to show they have reviewed and understand it.
Here are a few potential policies to consider:
- No-Contact Rules: The easiest way to prevent the spread is to limit contact. Handshakes, closed meeting spaces, and other potential physical contact are all risks nowadays. Consider a no-contact rule.
- Sharing is… Spreading: The coronavirus can last hours or even days on some surfaces. That water cooler tap handle, coffeepot, or red Swingline are all risky areas now. Consider a no sharing policy to prevent the spread.
- Break from Traditional Breaks: The breakroom is going to be one of the most dangerous places to congregate. One idea could be to replace the traditional break with a walk. In fact, with sunlight and fresh air as a necessity, consider encouraging employees to take a walk during their legally-required breaks.
Consider a Change in Work Schedules
If work-from home policies taught us anything, it’s that the traditional 9-to-5 is dying. Some people are more productive at different times, and catering to their needs can help stop the spread and increase productivity.
Re-Plan Your Facility
Policies are only part of the equation. Floor plans, fridges, and lounges are all risky nowadays. Knowing this, you may need to re-plan your facilities in the name of safety. Work with your HR department to minimize contact and encourage social distancing.
- Look At Your Floor Plan: The open office space is a breeding ground for sickness. The first step, especially in an office environment is to plan for social distancing. Maybe this means keeping some employees at home or finding other ways to spread our workers.
- Evaluate Foot Traffic: Look at your office like an episode of Bar Rescue. Are there bottlenecks, gathering areas, or stopping points that stand between you and a socially distanced workplace? People need to flow through your office and do so without contacting. Encourage that employees avoid breakrooms.
- Stock Up on Sanitizer: One of the most effective ways to stop the spread is to encourage regular sanitization. Whether it’s in the form of a sanitizer station or equipping employees with bottles of sanitizer, you can stop the spread.
- Establish Cleaning Practices: Whether you have an in-house cleaning crew or outsource, you need to demand more. Ensure spaces stay clean and sanitized.
Looking for More? Watch Our Controllers Roundtable Event
As we work toward returning, it pays to know what others are doing so that you can implement what works. We’ve announced a new webcast titled Controller’s Roundtable–Changing Roles and Priorities.
This virtual roundtable will share pandemic management insights from a panel of five accounting/finance executives. The complimentary webcast is scheduled for Tuesday, June 23, 1 PM CST/2 PM EST, and will feature Directors of the Controllers Council Board of Advisors as panelists including Ted Weitzel, SVP, Finance & Operations at G2; Jhemma Winkworth, Controller at Relativity; Raykhan Bekimbetova, Controller of (ISC)²; and Roman Matatov, Corporate Controller, Verana Health. Controllers Council Board Chair, Lindy Antonelli, Partner at Armanino will moderate the panel discussion, along with a question and answer session.