With the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are beginning to wonder how to continue operating while keeping their staff and clients as safe as possible. This new COVID-19 landscape is entirely different than anything most of us have had to deal with before.
Trying to decide what the right steps to take can be difficult as an employer, especially since you need your business to continue thriving, but keeping your staff safe is imperative.
As the world learns about the disease together, and how to best prevent transmission, keep the following ideas in mind so you can safely re-open and operate your business during COVID-19.
1. Provide PPE for your staff and require face masks to be worn inside
Don’t require your staff members to provide their own face masks that will be used at their place of work. Purchase bulk face masks for your employees so that they can throw them away at the end of their shift.
The reality of not being able to obtain enough personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as PPE, has been in the news for months as employers and individuals scrambled to purchase as many available masks as were available.
However, manufacturers have recently started increasing their production of face masks, and buying bulk face masks in the USA is becoming easier to do again. (If you’re curious where to buy bulk masks for your family or your business to ensure the safety of everyone, you’ve come to the right spot!)
To protect your staff and customers, you may want to consider offering face masks at the front of your store to hand out to customers who have forgotten theirs. This may help decrease the objection of customers who do not want to wear masks in your store or eatery.
Buying face masks in bulk will help decrease the business cost and will decrease the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading.
Although states and counties vary on requirements, privately owned businesses can require their customers to enter with masks, just in the same way private businesses can require shoes and shirts for service.
While wearing face masks can be annoying for customers and staff alike, it’s an easy protective step and one that can be taken just by providing bulk face masks and supplying them to your employees and clients.
2. Ensure your facility is disinfected
If your place of business is open to the public, you’ll need to create a plan for how to maintain a fully clean and disinfected space for your staff and clients.
Any surface that is frequently touched by multiple people should be disinfected regularly. Such examples include door handles, counter areas, desks, light switches, sink faucets, bathrooms, and so on. It’s surprising how many things we touch in a day without thinking about it! If you work in an office space without many customers directly visiting, it may be relatively easy for you to have your staff keep sanitizing wipes on them to clean surfaces as they go. Make sure that you supply them with sanitizer though, since this is a business expense.
However, if your place of business has an influx of customers throughout the day, your disinfecting plan will need to be different. Since some items will need to be disinfected with each use, establish a plan in which it is easy to decipher what has or has not been sanitized. Shopping carts, for example, should no longer be allowed to be brought in to the store by customers. Instead, disinfect the carts directly outside of the store before bringing them in for re-use.
Let your staff know the plan to keep them safe and clean. If you are a very busy store, you may want to hire an individual whose full job is disinfected re-usable items or surfaces. If, however, you are able to limit how many customers come in to contact with your facility, simply let your staff know when to disinfect items, and when to change their gloves or masks. Each item that is properly cleaned reduces the transmission of COVID-19.
3. Have a back-to-work plan in place
If you run a business that has been fully remote for several months, your plan to return back to work may want to incorporate extra spacing between desks and/or cubicles. This may mean that there simply is not enough room for all of your staff to come into the office on day one.
Since you’ve been able to keep your company running smoothly while working remotely, you may want to have an “A Team” and a “B Team.” On Mondays and Wednesdays, and every other Friday, your A Team could come into work. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and the Fridays that your A Team isn’t there, have your B Team come into work. Each evening, have your teams disinfect their work stations entirely. This work plan option can reduce the number of people sharing a space, and allows more space between individuals who would normally be working next to each other.
Other back-to-work plans might include the following:
- No matter how much space there is between employees, there is still a risk for transmission of COVID-19 if your work is inside. Even if each of you can reliably stay 6 feet away, buy bulk face masks, hand sanitizers in bulk, paper towels, extra hand soap, and cleaning wipes for your employees to feel comfortable and safe.
- If you are able to bring in some fresh air, keep the windows open while you work with your staff. This helps with air circulation.
- Encourage your staff to eat outside if they want to lunch together, and have your staff take breaks for their coffee or tea outside as needed.
- Be available to talk to your staff as they return back to work. Adjusting to new challenges and realities can be emotional and stressful, so acknowledge things instead of sweeping the COVID-19 pandemic realities under the rug. Being open will make your staff feel like they have a safe space.
4. If your employees are sick, require them to stay home
One of the problems of COVID-19 is that there are many asymptomatic carriers of the disease. Without symptoms, it’s impossible to know who may or may not be infected. So, if any of your employees are feeling under the weather, require them to stay home. This goes for things as simple as seasonal allergies since sneezing can cause body fluid to be expelled onto surfaces.
Have a specific plan in place in case anyone becomes ill. If any of your employees show signs of COVID-19, immediately require the staff member to be tested.
If any employee tests positive for COVID-19 and has been to work in the past 14 days, all employees that have worked in office over the past two weeks should be required to also stay home. This can be difficult when employees can not work remotely, which is why it is imperative that you provide bulk face masks from day one of returning back to work.
Make sure that you have established what occurs when one or more of your employees becomes sick, even if it not COVID-19 related. Being proactive will help reduce the need to be reactive.
Requiring your staff to stay home when they are feeling under the weather is not something new. Most employers have strict regulations on keeping their unhealthy staff away from healthy staff to reduce illness, but it’s time to really take that seriously. If you’re feeling exhausted, have a fever, or are coughing, it’s time to call in sick. Don’t allow people to be “strong” for coming into work and putting others at danger.
5. Be understanding
This last tip really falls on your shoulders, not the shoulders of your staff members. While it may be natural for you to consider how to increase sales or improve your bottom line right now, your employees are individuals. Remember to check in your staff members, and consider the ideas that they introduce that may help with keeping one another safe, both physically and mentally.
Many people are struggling right now with anxiety, depression, and a whole lot of cabin fever, all related to the disease. By being honest and understanding, your workplace can be a haven for those dealing with mental struggles.
If an employee is at risk for COVID-19 due to their age, or happen to be immunosuppressed, ask them what they would like to see changed so they could work as safely as possible. If their position can be done remotely, encourage them to stay home and work from the safety of their residence even if the rest of your team is returning to a normalized version of work.
In the end, while it’s necessary to disinfect surfaces, supply your staff with bulk face masks, and take every precaution to keep your sick staff at home, there is still a chance for your employees to have fear or reluctance about returning to work. Being understanding will improve your relationship with your employees, and reduces chances of COVID-19 latching on to your place of business.