Is your business ready to open up after COVID closed it down?
You've gone over your reentry plan a few times, but still, you worry you may have left something out?
It's crucial you reopen your business doors — you need the cash flowing, and you want to pay your employees.
But opening too soon — opening before your COVID reentry plan is flawless can cause more setbacks than your business can handle.
What Should Be In Your Reentry Plan?
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know to reopen your doors with confidence. Keep reading to see if you left anything out of your business reentry plan.
#1. Planning for Employee Capacity
Have you considered how many people you can safely have in the building at one time based on social distancing requirements?
The number may shock you — and will vary by city and state. If you can't operate at full capacity, though, you have options.
Some businesses rotate shifts by letting people work half of the week from home and in the office the other half. Or only bringing back a percentage of their employees and allowing the rest to work from home full-time.
In your reentry plan, you'll also need to put something in place to prevent a high number of customers or employees entering the building at one time. You can do this by scheduling appointments or having a door greeter track the number of occupants.
You can limit on-site meetings with customers and field employees by utilizing virtual meeting software. Zoom is a popular choice, and programs like Zoom reduce or eliminate meeting rooms — people can stay at their desks for meetings.
Don't forget to think about congestion in common areas! Elevators, kitchens, and bathrooms can quickly become crowded. You'll need a plan to combat this before bringing everyone back.
#2. Check-In Stations for Entering the Building
Do you have check-in stations for employees and clients set up?
You'll need to provide a controlled point of entry into the building where you can proactively reduce risk to the people in your building.
Most businesses are requiring temperature and symptom checks before people can enter their building. This helps prevent employees and clients that are symptomatic from coming inside.
Providing hand sanitizer or hand washing stations are another great option to add to your COVID reentry plan — with instructions on how to wash your hands displayed close-by.
You can also provide masks to employees, customers, and vendors. Ensure that everyone is on the same page with your policies— post them on your door and throughout the building. Everyone must know what you expect from them as far as mask-wearing and social distancing are concerned.
If your budget allows it, installing automatic doors can reduce the spread of infection by preventing touchpoints—the fewer items people touch, the less risk of exposure.
#3. Cleaning Requirements
What are you planning to do to keep the building clean? Have you added every space to your sanitation routine?
Cleanliness is more important than ever — both to reduce risk and to reassure employees and customers that their safety is essential and that you’re taking action to provide a safe environment.
But what areas do you need to focus on, and how do you keep them as clean as possible?
One area to look at is your elevators. Everyone who enters an elevator touches the buttons— and sometimes even the doors. You need to add these to your regular cleaning schedule. Limiting elevator capacity and providing hand sanitizer will help a lot, too.
Stairway doors and railings need regular cleaning. You might also consider restricting some stairways — only using them in the event of an emergency.
Employee desks are generally not cleaned by the building maintenance crew. Consider implementing UV light cleaning for electronics, and implementing cleaning schedules for staff to either clear their desks so cleaning crews can clean them or have employees clean them.
Bathrooms will require more regular cleaning schedules and ideally UV lights. Some buildings are implementing touchless technology in their restrooms, including automatic toilets, water faucets, doors, etc.
Installing UV lights throughout the office can aid in killing bacteria. Be mindful of our webinar with Beverly Jerman, where we learned that UV lights may also kill office plants. You might need to decide between the two.
#4. Distancing Requirements
Do your workstations meet the distancing requirements?
Your staff and customers need to have at least 6 ft of space between workstations, conference room seats, break room, etc.
You need to make sure that throughout the building, everyone can maintain social distancing.
I understand this may be difficult for some companies, but I assure you that you have options.
Start by reducing the number of seats in common areas. Then space them each out at least 6 feet apart.
A lot of companies are utilizing floor stickers or tape to mark 6-foot squares. This encourages social distancing and lets everyone visualize the space required.
If some of your staff are staying home or rotating schedules, you can easily remove some desks in the work areas — giving everyone ample room to meet safety guidelines.
But if that isn't possible, you can use space dividers such as free-standing office dividers or extensions that attach to desks. Dividers made from tempered glass or laminate may be your best options because, as we learned from Beverly Jerman's interview, plexiglass will require special cleaning care.
#5. A Plan for Common Areas
Have you thought about how to handle common areas?
You will need to have individual plans for how to address common areas where people gather.
Many of the tips we've already discussed apply to these areas, but you want to consider each space and plan for a safe opening carefully. That's if you open it at all. You may decide to keep it closed, or re-close it if you opened and have concerns.
We've already talked about closing them, reducing seating, and regularly cleaning them. But other things you should do include removing all shared items.
I'm sure you've noticed at restaurants that things like napkins and condiments disappeared. These businesses know how quickly the virus spreads on shared items, so they removed them.
You'll want to apply this to all your common areas, install touchless systems, and put up signs that explain the proper usage of the area.
You may have already considered some of these areas, but here is a list in case you forgot one:
- Break Rooms
- Kitchen Areas
- Vending Machines
- Lactation Spaces
- Water Coolers
#6. Evaluate Air Filtration Systems
Can you improve the filtration systems in your office?
You will want to consider your office filtration systems and determine if you can improve them to remove or reduce particulates in the air. While you can’t necessarily eliminate COVID in the air, reducing allergens that cause sneezing and runny noses may reduce the likelihood of transmission.
Providing clean air in your office is done by ensuring you contain contaminated air or exhaust it outside. Then you infuse the air with more clean, filtered air. This dilutes any germs or bacteria floating around.
Some other things you can do to improve your air filtration system include:
- Increase your ventilation rates on the building's ventilation system.
- Increase the amount of outdoor air that comes into the system
- Follow the appropriate filter change protocols for the system.
Cleaner air helps keep everyone healthier— it’s never a bad idea to evaluate or upgrade your air filtration system.
#7. Review Landlord and Local Regulations
Does your lease have any regulations you need to follow?
If you rent your office space, your landlord may have rules for your building and any common areas that you may need to be aware of.
Even if your landlord isn't mandating anything or you own your building, you still have things to consider. Each state compiled guidelines separate from the CDC that you need to review and implement.
- Texas, for example, is only allowing offices to operate at 50% total capacity. They also require face coverings and social distancing.
- While Arkansas, which is next door to Texas, is a lot more relaxed with their regulations. According to their website, they only recommend following the guidelines put out by the CDC.
You'll need to determine who is responsible for setting rules and regulations for your building. And then you'll have to include them in your business reentry plan— as well as your city and state's guidelines.
#8. Include Training Programs
Are your employees trained on the new policies?
There's a lot to learn all of a sudden. Your team needs to know what you expect of them, and managers need to understand what their responsibilities are for enforcing the new rules.
There are different things you can do to help. First, you need to implement training programs for your managers. Use this time to teach them how to handle non-compliance and address concerns from employees and customers. They will also need to know how to use any new technology adapted to keep workflow and reduce risk.
Then, of course, you'll need to train your staff. They will need to learn what the new guidelines are and the rules for customers. It will be helpful also to teach them how to address customer concerns.
Everyone will need to know how to handle customers and what you expect for employee interactions.
Spending time going over the changes you've made, and the expectations you have will increase your chances of a smoother reopening.
#9. Build a Communication Plan
What are you going to do if things have to change again? How will you communicate that with your employees?
You've put the COVID reentry plan together, but things will inevitably happen that you didn't account for, and you'll need to make changes.
Plus, if someone were to come to work sick and expose other employees, you may need to shut down for quarantine again— and advise employees to get tested.
Outline a method to communicate with everyone. Something that is easy to understand and that you know everyone will see.
Email is usually the best option— or if your company uses a specific app that could work as well.
Maybe you can use social media. But what if you want to keep things private— like potential exposure. You may not want to post about that to the public until you have all the details.
In this case, it might be useful to establish guidelines for what is okay to talk about and what isn't. You don't want one employee to cough and another to start a rumor about what might just be a cold.
Communication is key. You need to keep everyone up-to-date and to prevent office gossip.
#10. Adjust Your Evacuation Plan
Does your evacuation plan allow for social distancing?
Most companies have evacuation plans in emergencies that involve using stairwells or moving to one area of the premises. To keep social distancing guidelines in place during an emergency, many of these plans will need to be adjusted.
Review your evacuation procedure and see where you can make room for social distancing requirements. You might find it less stressful if you assign floor wardens— people responsible for managing evacuations.
You'll need to establish guidelines for using the elevator during an evacuation. Calculate how many people can use it at one time and check to make sure that the number follows building protocols for occupancy.
Make sure you also create a quick close procedure or phases— in case you have to shut down. If your business reentry plan fails or the virus reoccurs, forced closures will happen again.
That's why it's so important to make sure you get it right— even if it means seeking help with your reentry plan.
#11. Create an Accountability Plan
Finally — Do you have someone to help you implement everything? You have a lot of things happening. You need to know who's responsible for making sure they get done.
Assign someone to help with the documentation. This person will be in charge of recording any data or changes with the policies.
Someone will need to be responsible for ensuring cleaning crews are sanitizing when and where they need to, for instance, if you are using conference rooms, someone needs to make sure they’re cleaned before and after each use.
What about managing the check-in areas and people come into the building? Put someone on that task as well.
You can't have your eyes on everyone, all the time. Having an accountability plan helps enforce the regulations and rules and increases your office's reentry plan's success.
Get Expert Help Creating & Implementing a Strategic Reentry Plan
You want to make sure your business is ready to open back up. You don’t want to open too soon.
Leaving something out of your reentry plan can force your business into an even more extended closure. You might have to furlough employees or worse — close down permanently.
You know that it's essential to plan ahead — and COVID doesn’t make planning any easier. Are you struggling to stay on top of all the new rules and regulations? It’s okay.
We are here to help you build a reentry plan that will put you back in business and save from crisis.
Let us help you build and execute a strategic reopening plan.
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