Few months earlier, everybody was busy predicting when this pandemic will end, and things will get back to normal but now WHO says that this might never happen! Corona virus may never go away, instead become the ‘New Normal’. This is making the government think of gradually ease lock-down measures, and consider the issue of how to reopen their economies while living in this pandemic. As PM Imran Khan says that, “The only solution to the Covid-19 crisis is imposing a smart lock-down that allows economic activity to continue while implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs)”.
This ease in lock-down restrictions and stay-at-home orders has breathed a new life into startups who can now look ahead of this phase of restrictions and bans so that they can plan to resume their businesses. However, this reintroduction to work needs to be handled carefully to make it a successful attempt of business resumption and business continuity. So, keep reading this article if you are a business owner and are considering resumption of your business.
Here, you will get useful tips on safely transitioning your workforce back to work, rebuilding their morale, and creating a work setting that allows you to work efficiently and safely in this pandemic.
✔ Reinstate workforce in a planned manner
First and foremost, it’s important to realize that opening your office for all of your employees at once is going to be a big mistake. Instead, find out which of your employees need to be physically present and which ones can continue to work from home to avoid crowding workplace. We know that the spread of corona virus is all about exposure so, it’s very important to start with calling only those of your employees to the work place whose job is critical to business continuity while others can return over a period of time. This ramp up approach will allow you to make a viable comeback in the market and prevent the spread of the pandemic.
One of the easiest ways for planned reintroduction is to create a group of employees and call them to office on alternate days. These groups can be formed across projects or functional lines. Many academic institutes and even companies such as, OGDCL are making use of this strategy to cap staff numbers at safe limit. Most of the companies are trying to keep their in-office staff under about 10-30% of the total staff as an attempt to maintain social distancing and follow SOP’s issued by the government. While deciding on who should return to work first, make sure you make these decisions on legitimate and non-discriminatory basis such as, job role and demand, health conditions, seniority, performance reviews, discipline records, etc.
✔ Reconfigure your work place setting
Another thing to consider is that working during the COVID-19 pandemic is not going to be same especially when make a return to business. Many people are signalling the end of the open-plan workplace which means you also need to change your workplace setting in a way that it allows you to maintain SOPs related to social distancing and hygiene practices. It is rather wise to go for surgical interventions and tactical solutions than committing resources on solution that might get ineffective when and if this pandemic ends.
Some changes to put in place at your workplace might include changing the sitting arrangement, creating one-way aisles, eliminating circuitous routes, placing up plastic/plexi-glass dividers, ensuring proper ventilation, and putting floor markers directing foot traffic. Taking all these actions will not only help you avoid getting fined for violation of SOPs but will also minimize likelihood of you, your staff, or your customers contracting the virus. In addition to re-configuring the physical setting, business owners shall also make sure that they have the required infrastructure needed for effective communication and collaboration among employees in these different work situations.
✔ Equip your employees with PPE kits
While you resume your business operation, also make sure that you follow the regulations related to providing PPE to your staff. This is especially important in businesses where there is close contact between employees and customers like in salons, movie theaters, hotels, restaurants, etc. According to SOPs issued by Sindh government, retailers are bound to follow SOPs such as, providing face masks and disposable gloves to all employees, checking the temperatures of customers and staff with thermal guns, keeping hand sanitizers in their shops and maintaining at least six-feet-apart distance between each person. They shall not be entertaining customers who come without face masks. If these SOPs are not followed, you may once again fear shut down.
Since June, authorities have shut down more than 3,000 shops and markets across the country. So, make sure that before getting back to business, you have all the PPE readily available with you. Even if you are not required to provide employees with PPE, it is best to play safe and provide it anyway.
✔ Prioritize morale building efforts
Another important thing you need to consider while you get back to business is to make sure you also account for the human aspect of returning to work in these challenging times. Employees returning to work under these different work settings may find it a little disturbing and might need a morale boost from you being their leader. In these anxious times, make sure you keep your workforce motivated in whatever way possible as giving them the required physical and emotional support will help them be more robust.
Your workforce might be having many personal and work-related problems and they would need their employer to be sensitive and understating towards them. Even during normal conditions, employees expect their bosses to be considerate by listening to their problems. Helping them in times when new pressures and anxieties are weighing them down is especially going to be effective at boosting their morale. Other ways to boost their morale and remove any kind of dispirited-ness is to encourage them, highlight their achievements, lighten their workload, reward good behaviour, promote collaboration, show concern, and promote positive workplace culture. Doing all this will not only boost their morale but will also make your employee remember your goodwill for years to come.
✔ Harness the power of communication
As you make returning to work official under the SOPs, you will realize that having a real, honest, and strong communication with your employees is now more important than ever. You will be needing communication for discussing progress on work done remotely, new work setting and safety protocols to be followed, new timings, new sitting arrangements, new polices, new goals, key decisions being made and so much more. The more open the communication lines are, the more fluid will be the transition for back to work. It is also very important to make this communication two-way by creating feedback channels where employees can share their concerns, express their needs, and ask questions about their roles and responsibilities in the new work setting.
This not just important for your physically present workforce but also for the part of your workforce that is still working remotely. Doing all this will help you calm your staffs’ nerves and enable them to take informed decisions. Make sure that whoever is in the role of manager is well-versed in policy changes and has the required resources to handle tough conversations, cast away any misinformation, and provide the required support to employees.
✔ Continue working remotely while you can
If you are in one of those businesses where teleworking is working just fine for you then it is most advisable to continue doing it especially for jobs that can be performed from home. Continuing work from home [WFH] is favourable for startups too because it is a cost effective and practical work arrangement in a situation where your resources are already meager and strained. In an uncertain situation where lock-down is declared and relaxed alternately, it is wise enough to stick to remote working for now in order to avoid disruption in business operations.
As you set yourself up for getting back to work and resume business operation, make sure that you are well prepared to deal with all kind of situations the current business scenario requires from you. Otherwise, you might be compromising on a viable comeback and may risk a return that is fruitless.