As people begin to return to work now that stay-at-home orders are becoming more relaxed, companies need to find ways to adjust to this new world. Employees are likely nervous to come back to work, so what can you do to ensure that all your employees feel safe and comfortable? Here are some tips to make your workplace more comfortable as people start coming in again.
Stop and Think
Before you decide to make your official decision on whether to open your business, stop to consider all the implications. This is a complex issue, and businesses are opening at drastically varying paces. Read up on all the official material you can before you make a decision that could affect the health and safety of you, your employees, and your customers. Only open once you feel that you have a new and effective business strategy. If you feel that you are ready to open, take time to consider your employees thoughts as well. Many employees have families at home to take care of and might not be ready to go back to the office just yet due to the fear of risking the health of their family. Before you make the sole decision, talk to your employees to see where they stand on the matter.
Business as Usual
While you will need to make some changes to account for new health and safety guidelines, the best step you can take to get your company up and running again is to make everyone feel like you are picking up where you left off. Even if new guidelines seem to be getting in the way of everyday life, a sense of familiarity will make everyone more comfortable. Keep in mind, it may take some time before employees get used to working in the office again so try to offer small incentives to make them feel motivated to come back. Small rewards such as pizza or donuts in the break room can make a world of difference in an employee’s attitude about returning to work.
You may be behind on work from all the time you have missed over the past few months, so you should consider spending your first few weeks back double-checking everything you need to have done. For example, accounting for small business is a fickle area of business that can cripple you if you lose track of any expenses or make a mistake, so make sure to check everything again.
Even if your state does not require everyone to wear masks in public, you can still enforce policies at your company that requires everyone to wear masks. Not only do masks help reduce the spread of disease, but they can also help calm nerves and show people that your company cares about their health and safety. If your state does require people to wear masks in public, enforce that rule vigilantly. Consider supplying your employees with their own masks when they walk into the building so that you can be sure they have a mask to wear.
Keep Your Distance
Many businesses are finding new and inventive ways to keep people sufficiently far apart from each other. Restaurants are opening at a small portion of their total capacity, retail stores are letting people inside in small groups at a time and routing preplanned paths for customers to follow, and other businesses are developing strategies that suit their needs. Think creatively about how you can keep people safe in your business. You can start by rearranging your office so that employees’ desks aren’t so close together. Consider arranging desks into an open floor plan so that your employees can still interact with each other while staying apart. If your office doesn’t have much room to move desks around consider allowing only a few employees in at a time. You can try to allow two or three departments, depending on size, to work Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedules and another set of departments to work Tuesdays and Thursdays. By doing this you can ensure there is a safe amount of people working at a time which is better than having everyone clumped together.
People are bound to be more health-conscious than normal due to recent events, and you should be accommodating of that. Take inspiration from other companies who have set up stations for hand sanitizer and other sanitary products around their buildings and do the same yourself. Similarly to the mask policies, it will show people that you care about their health and safety, and the expenses for supplies will be minimal. Be sure to stock up on as much sanitizer as you think you’ll need. Remember it’s better to overstock than to understock in this case.
Prepare for More
While the danger of the situation seems to be decreasing, some experts are predicting another wave of illness in the coming months. If these experts are correct, you may need to temporarily close your business again. As unfortunate as that is, it is important you, your employees, and your customers remain safe, so make sure that your employees and customers know that. Hold a meeting with your employees to discuss a plan in case your business closes again rather than surprising them suddenly if a second wave does happen. It’ll also be a good idea for your business to plan ahead and make sure work stays efficient if a closure occurs again.
As grim as the world might seem right now, an attitude of doom and gloom will not do anyone any favors. If you are in any position of power in your company, you can influence the attitude of the other employees. If you give off an aura of confidence and assuredness, the other employees will be more likely to follow suit, and company morale could increase. Find ways to show your employees how grateful you are that they have safely returned to work. Your employees will feel that they are an important part of your company. This could even boost their confidence and motivation to work harder.
People have had vastly different experiences with COVID-19. Some people have managed to remain largely unaffected while others have been affected directly. No matter what the personal experiences of the people you work with are, it is best to be empathetic to people who may have had potentially bad experiences with the virus. Encourage a culture of compassion among everyone in your workplace.
Your expectations are unlikely to remain identical to what they were in the past. You should take the time as soon as you return to work to redefine exactly what is expected from employees from each department. People are bound to be nervous coming back from such a long hiatus, so knowing exactly what is expected of them can help make them more secure as everyone starts working again.
These ten tips are only a guideline for what companies can do to make their employees comfortable as they come back to work. You know your company better than anyone else, so it is up to you to make the best decision for your specific circumstance.