HR for Business: What happens next?
With Malaika T. Edwards
There have been several articles published recently with useful suggestions and guidelines on how workplaces can safely reopen in light of the current pandemic. In this month’s article, I am sharing a few of these key points to assist business owners who must make changes in their respective organisations.
As I have indicated in previous articles, it is not business as usual; there are several adjustments that will need to be made going forward, and we must be prepared to adjust, and to do so quickly. Outlined below are a few suggestions I have compiled which should be useful to business owners making changes:
- Sneeze Guards. If you employ persons who must interact extensively with the public (for example cashiers and receptionists), ensure that you install plexiglass/ sneeze guards for these workstations, if you have not already done so. This serves to protect your employees and visitors to your establishment.
- One Way Aisles. If your business place has aisles, establish a ‘one-way’ system in each aisle and guide your customers with directional markers to control the flow of movement.
- Safety Monitors. Your workplace may have a Safety Monitor and going forward, the role of the Safety Monitor will need to be revised and additional duties assigned. Currently, Safety Monitors have responsibility for areas like disaster preparedness (hurricane, earthquake, fire etc) but additional areas like monitoring air quality control and social distancing in the office should now be added to the Safety Monitor's portfolio. If your workplace does not have a Safety Monitor, someone should be assigned to this role and trained to function accordingly.
- Lunchrooms. It will be important to enforce and/or implement lunch schedules to minimize the number of employees who are in the lunch area - particularly if your lunchroom is relatively small. Space permitting, there should also be consideration for designating additional areas as lunchrooms so that there are less persons in one area at a given time.
- Company Vehicles. Ensure shared company vehicles that transport goods and employees are frequently cleaned and sanitized. Also, limit the number of employees that travel together on any occasion.
- Signage. Install safety posters and signs around the work area. In certain industries, it is customary to see signs reminding employees to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like hardhats and earplugs. Signage must now include handwashing and social distancing reminders.
As business owners, it is important to recognise that you will need to adjust, and you must consider implementing new and/or revised workplace policies going forward. There must be due consideration to areas like managing activities that can be successfully performed remotely and revising the compensation and benefits structure for employees who will work from home, as they continue to use personal resources to execute their tasks.
Depending on the current layout of your office space, there may also need to be a remodeling of your floor plans to ensure that the 6 ft recommendation for social distancing can be adhered to. There will also need to be consideration in other areas such as minimising (or eliminating) shared office equipment and ensuring that each employee has their own work tools. Additionally, in the same manner that employees receive branded T-shirts, the issuing of branded masks may also become increasingly necessary as part of your company dress code. Business owners will need to consider the costs of providing masks and equipment for all employees and will need to make budgetary accommodations accordingly.
There is still a lot to be done in response to the global pandemic, and still several unknowns about the current situation. Despite this, I trust that you will continue to be guided by the relevant authorities and will continue to remain vigilant to ensure that your employees, customers, and other key stakeholders are protected.
Malaika T. Edwards, PhD provides HR advisory services to business and individual clients. She is also an academic in the Higher Education landscape. You can contact her on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/malaika-edwards or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.