Getting the New Normal Right for Your Workers

Things have started a (slow) return to “normalcy” here in California as Governor Newsom okayed a slow re-opening of the state’s economy on May 8.

Garden Grove staffing

The fact is, more and more businesses soon will start to bring workers back to work and as the state’s economy very slowly reopens, your workers are going to need to get used to a new normal in the workplace:

  • Some will work from home full time.
  • Others will work from home part time.
  • Workers you need in an office or to work on-site may find that they have their schedules staggered.
  • Employers may need different policies for employees considered to be at higher risk of contracting the virus.
  • And so on.

Considerations for employers starting to reopen

First, understand that guidelines and even requirements may have changed by the time you read this. That said, here are some things experts (employment law attorneys, for example) believe employers may need to consider not only as they start to reopen for business, but also as additional restrictions are lifted over the coming months.

  • Employers may have to open in “phases.”

The CDC and the White House have recommended that the country reopen in phases (for example, golf courses and other outdoor venues first, retailers with curbside delivery next, gyms much later).

Yet employers also may want to get ready for opening in phases. That is: following government guidelines, employers may need to “open their individual business in phases by staggering the timeline for returning employees to work.” The idea is that employers need to “consider” which positions are most essential and start with those. Employers would need to orient on-site employees in Covid-19 safe workplace practices so that they can work at the employer’s location(s) as safely as possible.

  • Employers should plan for how they are going to deal with employees’ fears of returning to work.

While many laid off and furloughed workers may be thrilled at the opportunity to work again, others may not. In fact, some workers may be too afraid to return to work in the early stages of re-opening and employers may need to consult with their attorney regarding how to handle these employees.

In addition, many employers may be able to offer only part-time work, which could have an adverse impact on employees’ desire to return, especially if they were laid off and collecting unemployment insurance. Again, a chat with an employment law attorney may be in order.

  • As they craft a re-opening plan, employers will need to give special consideration of those workers considered at “high risk” of either contracting the virus or of developing severe symptoms if they do contract the coronavirus.

As mentioned above, employers may want to consult an attorney regarding risks and liabilities regarding whether to bring such employees back to work and what they will do if they require employees to return and what then happens if one or more high-risk employees is reluctant to do so. Employers’ actions will need to be balanced against the potential of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and other anti-discrimination laws (such as age discrimination as individuals at higher risk of severe symptoms tend to be people age 65 and older).

  • Employers may have to reconfigure their site’s physical layout.

Social distancing guidelines will need to be followed during re-opening for the foreseeable future and so employers may need to reconfigure workspaces. Employers also may want to reconsider having employees gather in large(ish) groups, such as in cafeterias/lunch rooms and conference rooms. If so, employers will still need to provide workers with sanitary places to have lunch and take breaks.

Additional strategies employers may want or need to consider include:

  • Requiring that employees wear face masks when around others.
  • Placing signs throughout the workplace that remind employees and customers to practice social distancing, especially in hallways, offices, lobbies, etc.
  • Ensuring that workers practice social distance during shift changes.
  • Establish a maximum capacity for public and employee restrooms.
  • Consider modifying frequently touched objects, such as installing touchless water faucets in restrooms and foot pedals to open doors.
  • Holding fewer in-person meetings.
  • Creating or revising “crowd” plans, such as setting a maximum number of workers and visitors that may be on-site at any one time.
  • And more.

We anticipate California’s re-opening to be something of a “learn as we go along” experience, with employers and workers – and the government – guiding each other as we move back to some normality. We therefore urge all of us – employers and their employees – to move carefully and with great consideration and understanding.

Helpmates can help employers navigate their reopening as we diligently work to stay on top of Covid-19 safe practices. We also ensure our specialists receive orientation on these practices before they head out on assignment and update them immediately as changes occur.

Contact the Helpmates branch nearest you or reach out to Rosalie Villa, CSP, our chief revenue officer, for more information on our Covid-19 safe practices orientation at rvilla@helpmates.com.

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