The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted various businesses differently. Some establishments were able to adapt to the remote work model while others heeded the government’s advice to close down their doors completely. After weeks or months of shut down and working remotely, businesses are starting to open slowly all over the world. However, businesses will face enormous challenges as the world starts to walk the path to recovery with the public health threat of the virus still present.
Since hospitals, grocery stores, and other essential businesses stayed open during the height of the pandemic, small establishments who are coming back to business can get their ideas from them on how to operate safely and to prepare for the return of their employees and customers. These essential businesses could give ideas to other companies in any sector to stay operational while keeping their employees and customers safe.
Although the work environment is different, two principles stood out. Businesses are tailoring safety protocols and implementing them all over the business operations. They practice significant activities that other sectors could adopt toward the path of the new normal.
Different workplaces, different risks
Work environments can be controlled differently, but some are easier to manage than others. The types of work environments vary greatly depending on the proximity of exposure. This refers to how long and how many individuals are interacting in a typical workday. Businesses must adopt safety measures to suit the specific environments where they operate. They must implement these safety protocols across all activities related to their operations as well as those that take place outside the workplace.
Additionally, they should encourage their employees to follow safety standards and policies. These rules should also apply to guests and suppliers who come in and out of the establishment. Business owners and managers should also be guided and be fully aware of the level of risk associated with business operations and work-related activities.
Actions to consider
Here are some of the safety measures that essential businesses all around the world have put in place to help business owners and operators as they seek to reopen on-site operations and workspaces.
Before reopening, employers should educate their employees on new protocols and immediately identify at-risk individuals. Additional resources should be provided to ensure return-to-work is safe and in order. The following should also be considered.
- Shift to remote work.
Continuing to working remotely should remain as the first option for businesses. For businesses where work cannot be done remotely, company managers should try their best to keep operating with contactless services where employees are not required to access on-site facilities and equipment.
- Mass testing.
The most effective way to protect the employees’ health is through COVID-19 testing.
- Symptom assessment.
For businesses where COVID-19 testing is not available, they can employ various types of symptoms assessment to isolate high-risk employees and prevent them from coming to work.
- Training and education.
Essential businesses that have been operating at the height of the coronavirus have proven that softer safety measures such as training and education worked significantly to instill new habits among employees and customers.
Childcare at the establishment is one of the biggest challenges to the availability and productivity of company workers or employees. Parents are naturally concerned about leaving their children alone at this time of the pandemic. To allay their fears, companies and local governments offered childcare subsidies to working individuals or shouldered the cost of babysitting services.
- Mental health.
Businesses are helping workers by paying attention to their physical safety and mental health. Mental healthcare tools and free subscriptions to meditation apps are being provided. They also add new programs such as exercise, yoga, meditation, and counseling to promote better self-care.
Traveling to and from work
Businesses should take into account the mode of transportation that employees use to travel to and from work.
Some businesses have organized transportation or subsidized ride-sharing for staff to minimize the employee’s risk of exposure to infection during their trip to and from the workplace.
- Temperature checks.
Temperature checks for all employees and customers upon entering the establishment should be strictly enforced. Passengers with temperatures higher than 38°C should be prohibited from entering the establishment or building.
- Staggered entry and exit.
Businesses implement staggered start times every day to minimize crowded entrances and exits.
- New cleaning protocols.
Cleaning protocols should be enhanced and done more frequently. Hand sanitizers or disinfecting wipes are recommended to be available at store entrances and some establishments like spas and salons should require regular hand washing and other disinfecting protocols.
- Protective equipment.
Businesses should implement the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the entry and exit from a workplace is the best area to remind everyone about safety and to be extra cautious.
Physical distancing protocols should be strictly implemented in every working environment.
- Ongoing reminders and conditional service.
Putting up signages for one-way aisles should be observed by the business. At the same time, they should implement regular disinfection of workstations. This should be done ideally every few hours.
- Enhanced hygiene protocols.
In a workspace where physical proximity is unavoidable, businesses should require their employees and customers to observe proper hand-washing and sanitation etiquette.
- Workspace redesign.
Besides face masks, wearing PPEs, and even gloves, businesses can install plexiglass partitions especially in the checkout counters of groceries and convenience stores. The workspace design plays an important role to promote and encourage people to observe physical distancing.
In common spaces
Physical distancing protocols should be taken into account to minimize gatherings in common spaces.
Due to the high transmission rates, important protocols like immediate disinfection and contact tracing should be activated as soon as one of the employees or customers test positive for COVID-19. The business should communicate this post-infection processes across all levels of the establishment.
- Contact tracing.
To sustain a safe working environment, the business should have the capability for contract tracing. When a confirmed COVID-19 case has been identified, the infected individual’s location history should be tracked and everyone who may have been in contact with the infected person should be notified of the protocols and isolation standards.
- Clear triggers for returning to work.
Businesses should have a proper definition of activation triggers and protocols for dealing with an infection or outbreak.
As businesses prepare to reopen, it should have a plan-ahead team to look over and guide the business to make informed and health-centered decisions. Every day brings new developments in the battle against COVID-19, so proper implementation of protocols and safety measures in return-to-work policies can help companies adapt and react immediately to protect the health and keep its employees and customers safe.
Following this guide of proven best practices can help your business of all types navigate the complicated process of reopening and evolving post-coronavirus pandemic.