Topic of this alert: Preparing your office for re-opening.
Just as those business which were fully prepared to quickly make the jump to remote-offices and/or a socially-distanced workplace were able to transition more easily and typically more successfully, the same is true for the transition back to the office and the business world. This article briefly examines some of the steps you should be taking now, so that when the government allows you to go back to work, you are safely first in line to do so.
Determine how to best have a socially distanced workplace: Examine and consider the physical layout of your office, how your employees physically work together, which employees and groups are more essential to work in the office, and how you can operate while minimizing people from having to come into contact with each other. Consider safety in areas such as the restroom, the copier, common areas, the entrance/exit, mail distribution, etc. Similarly, it may make sense to stagger the days or times during which people work in the office versus working remote – perhaps by which functions benefit most from being in the office, or separate by team, division, or the physical proximity of employees to each other. Note that these procedures may also require input from your employees so you can determine if there are any employees who are more vulnerable directly or indirectly (i.e., caring for someone who is more vulnerable) to the extent that information may impact your decisions.
Determine what office areas should be closed: You may need to temporarily eliminate common use areas such as the conference rooms, kitchen, the water cooler, etc.
Understand all legal safety requirements: Make sure you fully understand all rules, regulations, requirements and advice from at least the CDC, OSHA and your governor, as well as any applicable industry specific rules. If you do not fully understand these rules and guidance, check with your attorney.
Plan your own unique or required safety requirements: Consider what additional safety requirements you will have unique to your business. For example, will you provide masks to your employees, or can/should they bring their own, and if so, what kind? If the business is supplying masks, do you have a source to acquire what is needed? Will you have regular cleaning or sterilization of certain high use areas of the office, or how many bottles of hand sanitizer will you need? Will you allow people to use the conference room or phone therein, and if so, how will you keep it safe and sanitized? Will clients/customers be permitted to visit onsite, and if so, what precautions will be in place? Brainstorm.
Appropriately monitor employees: Be sure to have strict procedures in place for reporting illness of an employee or anyone with whom the employee resides or comes into contact, while assuring that you also comply with all applicable privacy laws, rules, and regulations.
Be prepared to operate if absenteeism spikes: You should have a plan in place to deal with the possibility that employees become sick so you can seamlessly adapt.
Implement sound data privacy and security policies: Data breaches have increased, by some measures, by over 300% in the United States since February 2020, and the trend is expected to continue. When your business moves back to the office, holes in your data privacy and security policies and procedures can be exacerbated. For example, if people are now required to bring their computers, hard drives, and any paper work, back and forth from home to the office on a consistent basis, there is another opportunity for items to be lost or security procedures to not be followed.
Make your rules, policies and procedures clear: Do not let there be any doubt about what your rules, policies and procedures are. Consider posting the rules in writing, circulating them via e-mail, and having a conference call of some sort where the rules are explained – how and why.
Conclusion: Start your preparations now to allow your business to re-open quickly, efficiently and safely as soon as you are permitted to do so.
For more information, please email us at or call 908-964-2485. Your inquiry will be directed to the appropriate attorney who will be able to assist. For additional information on COVID-19 and your business, please visit us at https://www.olenderfeldman.com/blog/.