This post was co-authored by Teresa Foltz and Christine Roach, Senior HR Consultants for vcfo.
In January, the virus that was then impacting China was barely on individuals’ radars in the US. As we too became engulfed by its impact, a massive mobilization ensued across all aspects of society. Businesses were forced to make quick and tough decisions, from how to stay afloat to how to put safe and effective work-from-home operations in place.
Now, more workplaces are being given the greenlight to reopen their doors. Reopening is an absolutely welcomed and positive step, but one that must be carefully planned, well organized, and thoughtfully taken. Missteps in reopening can erode customer trust, damage company culture, and put the physical health of employees and overall health of the business at risk.
To help leaders gain confidence that they cover all the bases as they prepare to reopen their businesses or bring work-from-home employees back to their facilities, we’ve put together a Checklist for Business Reopening and Resumption.
*Note: This checklist should not be viewed as exhaustive, but as covering the primary, universal elements of business reopening and resumption. Every business is different and should be reopened only in accordance with state and local guidelines.*
Before moving to more of the tactical elements of business reopening or resumption, leaders should weigh the broader strategic aspects in play and ensure the best possible foundation to make decisions from.
- Establish goals and milestones for reopening and how progress against them will be measured
- Establish selection criteria for who should return to work and, potentially, who should remain remote
- Establish a recruiting/staffing contingencies plan should some employees not wish to return
- Determine best timing/sequencing of employee returns (all at once, phased approach, staggered schedules)
- Assess whether changes to past business norms are needed (e.g. revised hours of operations, modified employee roles and responsibilities)
- Identify how traditional customer experiences/interactions may need to shift
- Get input and perspective from key leaders and external attorney, HR professionals, accountant, etc.
- Look at financial impacts and mitigate fallout through strategic planning efforts.
Facilities readiness is imperative to instill confidence in customers and employees that leaders and the organization as a whole are doing everything possible to make it safe for them to come back and conduct business.
- Complete inspections and preventive maintenance on all significant equipment (e.g. HVAC, hygiene)
- Communicate reopening plans to vendors/suppliers and ensure they can meet service demands
- Complete full facilities cleaning (see CDC Guidelines), assess on-hand supplies, and establish the plan for recurring cleaning procedures (frequency, locations, materials used, etc.)
- Review all facility access points and procedures, including entry/exit protocols, visitor policies.
- Assess floor plans to enable proper spacing and social distancing and minimize congregation points.
- Review traffic flows and physical touchpoints (e.g. deliveries) to establish contactless interactions where possible.
Communication and Change Management (for Employees and Customers)
Prepare workers and customers for a positive return with transparent, consistent, and appreciative communications. Everyone should have clear expectations regarding what the workplace/business environment will look and feel like upon their return and the reason behind any changes made.
- Incorporate reopening and business resumption into the organization’s change management and communication strategy and corresponding plans
- Document the timing, content, and delivery mediums for announcements
- Determine where segmented communications may be needed for different departments/shifts or employees of different statuses (e.g. furloughed, remote-only)
- Establish a review and approval process for communications before they are delivered
- Create a separate and focused communication plan for customers
- Consider supports (e.g. virtual learning) for new behavior adaptation (e.g. leading or being part of a virtual/dispersed team)
- Implement message/information reinforcements across multiple layers (e.g. posters, email signature lines, intranet, onboarding and training materials, etc.)
- Ensure clear, easy, and closed-loop paths for employees to seek clarifications and ask questions
Policies and Practices Review
Many policies will likely require changes or updates to meet the needs of the new normal. Review each for changes that are needed now and understand that there are still unknowns that will likely compel further updates in the near future. In addition to broader macro policies like those noted below, “micro” policies and practices (e.g. conference room, kitchen, meeting protocols) will also need to be evaluated.
- Return to work prerequisites
- Guest and visitors
- Facility access
- Temporary and contract
- Business and personal travel
- Remote work
- Workplace safety and hygiene
- Employee screening
- Performance reviews
- Employee benefits
- Emergency Response
HR and Regulatory Readiness
Shared responsibility for health and safety of employees / taking care, culture/vision.
- Assign a COVID-19 protocol officer/leader from HR or safety to monitor and guide actions
- Ensure Families First Coronavirus Response Act requirements are met
- Amend response and recovery plans to include both infectious diseases and natural disasters
- Determine tracking and documentation requirements for reinstated/returning employees (e.g. rehire paperwork or I-9 documentation updates needed?)
- Review PTO procedures and related impacts including potential future tax credits
- Assess whether changes are needed to pay practices (e.g. hazard pay), HR coding, and emergency paid / family medical leave
- Apply needed updates to the employee handbook and ensure they are communicated and understood
- Review employee support resources (e.g. learning, physical and mental health, reliable information outlets)
- Ensure that “care for employees” is a primary element of all communications
Plan and Prepare for Success
Remember, this checklist should not be viewed as exhaustive, but rather as a solid place to start for leaders who are getting ready to reopen their businesses. Especially now, “winging it” and “figuring it out as we go” are not advisable approaches. The health of customers, employees, and companies overall will in large part depend on how planful, prepared, and disciplined leaders are in reopening and resuming their businesses.
Strengthen your company’s plan for getting back to business. Request a free consultation with a vcfo expert today.