Businesses are talking about getting back to business.
And many governments are issuing inconsistent and conflicting guidelines.
We're in uncharted waters with no proven approach for getting back to business.
This article is a navigational beacon to guide you with the proper perspective for planning, legal considerations, and company-specific safety precautions.
So, where to begin?
Think of it as starting a business, not resuming a business.
An excellent primer on resuming business is Bain & Company's April 28 brief, "Back to Work."
The key question to ask is not, "How do we bring workers back to resume business?"
Instead, ask "What are the customer needs that I can serve? Where is the demand and how will we configure the business systems—supply chains, production and service operations, distribution—to meet it?"
"For most executives, the task at hand will be less like restarting a business than like starting a business."- Bain & Company, 2020
Maintain a flexible phased-in plan for returning employees to work.
Demand and supply can change, and therefore, employment needs will change. Setting up Agile teams is the most effective and scalable way to adjust and build resiliency into fluid operational environments.
Remain Flexible, and expect to change.
Even when you've accurately forecast supply and demand and employee requirements, factors beyond your control (e.g. a virus outbreak in remote areas) can impact your ability to execute on the plan. Therefore, having the contingency plans, and the ability and will adapt will be key.
Of course, business is never only about business; there's also legal compliance...
Minimum Legal Compliance
Employers need to understand what the laws are that apply to reopening of their businesses. The following sources of legal requirements apply to business in the US.
- Comprehensive listing of federal, state and local governments. Law may also vary by industry.
- OSHA - specific regulations and guidelines, that also address specific industries.
- “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” is a comprehensive guide for procedures workplace cleaning specific for Covid.
- The EEOC website contains a list of What You Should Know About the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act and the Coronavirus.
While much of the law is intended to assure universal safety, each business must consider an act on its unique requirements to keep employees and customer safe...
Employee and Customer Safety
Covid has made us hyper-aware of the health risks from close interaction with others. The OSHA website details procedures for both industries and work environments, relative to Covid-19. And the Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides sick leave wages and extended leave requirements for some businesses.
The following are some key considerations as you bring employees back to work:
Take a phased approach.Managing a smaller group will minimize any health and safety issues that may arise, and therefore make corrections easier and more manageable.
Confidentiality.Employers must be mindful of confidentiality of employees' health and medical information. While employers should be tracking the Covid-related health of each employee, and using this information to make staffing decisions, it remains private health information subject to confidentiality laws and practices.
Contact-free interactions. More people -employees and customers - will want to limit what they touch. Therefore, options to purchase goods and services that doesn't require physical contact is likely to gain traction. Retail business in particular, should re-tool their operations to encourage and accept touch-less payment solutions.
Covid has proved that we should be certain there will always be uncertainty. It's forcing the evolution of business faster than what we've seen through the industrial revolution and the initial digital revolution. A smart, flexible approach to "return to work" will position us to not only survive, but thrive - thrive for our employees, our customers, and our communities.
We're in this together, and we'll get through it together.