We have spent a large portion of 2020 in a state of limbo. Now that many regional lockdowns have lifted, business owners are faced with a number of questions about how to get back to business while keeping their teams and clients safe.

In order to prevail through this crisis – and in any time of uncertainty – strong leadership and management is critical. You need to be intentional and thorough in creating a reopening plan that prioritizes health and safety; you need to lead your team with confidence and compassion.

Business owners who have shown themselves to be leaders through this time are implementing procedures and processes in a number of areas. Here are several that you should consider.

Check In With Your Team

First and foremost, the safety and comfort of your team is a priority and will set the tone in your office for your clients. We recommend that you check in with your team to gauge their comfort level with returning to the office. Their responses should help guide your return-to-work timeline and communication plan.

Resources

Make a plan to stay abreast of updated information. It’s been exhausting to navigate through all the information being thrown at us for the last few months – but it’s necessary. Stay current on any state and local regulations as you consider opening your office to your teams and clients. In addition to your local authorities, you can find the latest updates from:

OSHA also offers resources for compliance assistance and no-cost consultation services to small- and medium-sized businesses across the country.

Work from Home and Sick Leave Policies

Though many businesses transitioned to remote work during the lockdowns, they didn’t all have formal remote work policies. Make sure you have a written agreement that outlines expectations. Consider the importance of having a permanent or long-term policy in place.

If a team member has tested positive for COVID-19 or is sick with another virus but well enough to be productive, it makes sense to allow them to work from home.

In addition to formalizing sick leave policies, you might also want to add in additional sick time for viruses like COVID-19 that have a longer period of infection.

Office Adjustments

Review the office layout and determine if there are any adjustments needed to allow for appropriate social distancing. You may need to move desks, install physical barriers and conduct meetings in an area that allows for at least 6 feet of distance between participants.

High-traffic areas such as breakrooms should be limited use and have ample cleaning supplies available.

Install hands-free devices wherever possible: foot-operated door openers, soap and paper towel dispensers, trash cans and faucets.

Consider using signage to remind team members and clients to follow social distancing guidelines, disinfect shared equipment and areas, and avoid shaking hands.

Reopening Procedures

Implement self-reporting systems, testing or thermal scanning that may be appropriate for your team and clients visiting the office. It is recommended that you also include an Acknowledgement of Risk Notice to team members as they begin returning to the office.

Keep a limited amount of people in the office using a phased approach if possible. You might want to implement a rotating in-office and work-from-home schedule, and limit visitors outside of client appointments.

Recommend that your team members use a personal cloth mask anytime that they are unable to maintain appropriate social distancing. In the event the team member does not have a mask, you should have masks available at the office.

Communication

Open lines of communication with your team will help ensure that everyone is comfortable. Let them know that you are open to hearing their concerns and will take them seriously.

Remember your team members will likely need time to arrange for child or elder care, transportation, etc., so give your team plenty of notice before you expect them to return to the office.

If you follow a phased approach to reopening, make sure in-person and virtual team members stay connected through regular virtual meetings and happy hours.

It’s also important that you tell your team who to contact within your office for guidance or any questions about your office policies.

Cleaning and Sanitation

In addition to the office modifications you may have made, stock ample cleaning supplies, including hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, paper towels in the bathrooms in place of hand dryers, disinfectant wipes and spray, and potentially an air purifier for smaller offices.

Create daily cleaning procedures for the staff, including promoting handwashing and deep cleaning in the evening and between client appointments.

Contingency Plans

If you or any of your team members become ill with symptoms of COVID-19, follow CDC and local protocols. These may include being sent home at the onset of symptoms, remaining quarantined as recommended by the CDC, and notifying team members and clients who were potentially exposed.

Have a contingency plan in place for any members of the team with critical job duties.

Client Meetings

When you and the team feel comfortable allowing clients to come to the office for in-person meetings, you should consider adding several procedures.

  • Keep a log of all visitors or clients with their name, host, date and time of their visit.
  • Develop cleaning procedures for before and after the client appointments.
  • Require visitors and clients to complete self-screening forms and Acknowledgement of Risk Notifications before entering the office.
  • Supply extra disposable masks and easy access to hand sanitation.
  • Develop a cleaning process for lobby doors, counters, chairs, etc. after anyone visits the office.
  • Give clients information on the policies put in place for their safety, should they be interested in coming in for a face-to-face, socially distanced meeting.
  • Continue to offer video and phone conferences to clients for the foreseeable future.

I often spend time working with my clients in what I call the “grey” area. For most of us, that area can be very uncomfortable. We have been programmed to believe that there is a right and wrong, a yes or a no, but that is not always true. I encourage you to be flexible as you determine what the best course of action is for you, your team and clients as you begin to head back into the office.

Carson has always touted the need for adaptability, and the value of that characteristic is especially clear this year.

This is not a race – it is a time to adapt and lead your team through uncertainty.

Contact your Carson Coach to implement a plan that is right for your business. If you don’t have a Carson Coach and could use guidance on best practices during these uncertain times, reach out for a complimentary coaching call.

Disclaimer: As always, be sure to check with an expert in employment law in your state before implementing any of the above.

AUTHOR

Jessica Harrington

Executive Business Coach
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