Now that Maryland is beginning to relax its shelter in place order and other local jurisdictions will likely follow suit, business owners need to begin planning for re-opening so that it can be done in a safe and effective way. Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing a series of articles that are designed to help you target the relevant issues as you contemplate re-opening, managing labor risks, and possibly shutting down again.
Evaluate the last few months
We learn from our past mistakes and victories. Given that the COVID-19 pandemic is a brand new problem for all of us, it is important to reflect on what you have learned over the last couple of months. If you have been able to stay open, what has worked to protect your employees? If you had an outbreak, why? What procedures can you put into place to prevent future disruptions to your business? If your employees have been teleworking, how productive have your workers been during this time? Are there any issues that arose that need to be fixed? For all businesses, has COVID-19 created new verticals for you to pivot into? Was your business continuity plan effective? By reflecting on what has worked and what has not worked over the last few months, you can proactively make changes going forward.
Take steps to protect your employees and customers
The most important part of re-opening is ensuring that you take preventative action to protect your employees and customers from the spread of COVID-19. While government and health officials believe that the rate of infection has slowed enough to start the re-opening stages, it is not gone and still poses a significant threat to your employees, customers, and business.
You will need environmental controls, increased cleaning and a change in employee behaviors. Please review the CDC, OSHA and other government guidance about the appropriate safety considerations, including increased ventilation, wearing face masks, social distancing, frequent handwashing, limited gatherings, and pre-screening for symptoms. Some trade organizations have also provided guidance on how to implement precautions in specific industries, especially when maintaining social distancing is very difficult. These precautions will look different in every workplace based on your needs. We recommend that someone walk around your entire workplace to critically audit potential issues, such as high touch areas, places where people naturally intermingle (i.e. kitchen, water cooler, elevator), and cubicles that are not 6 feet apart. Changes then need to be made to help workers remember the precautions. This could include something as simple as signs around the office reminding the employees of the steps to take or more drastic measures, such as removing half the chairs from the lunch room so people do not group together.
Communicate with your Employees
Since the very beginning of this crisis, communication with your employees has been key. COVID-19 has had a profound impact on everyone’s life in one way or another. It is important to remember this when you are communicating with your employees. You want to remain optimist and to give them reassurance that their safety is your number one priority. We suggest that you check-in and give updates on the steps your business is taking. This helps to minimize anxiety and create the “we are in this together” attitude that will get us to the end of this crisis and head off disputes before they start.
As always, we are here to help you navigate the challenges you face during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact the attorneys at McMillan Metro at (301) 251-1180 for more information.