Best Practices for Re-Opening Business Post-Pandemic

For those food industry businesses preparing to more broadly re-open, here are some general best practices and guidelines that can help streamline the process.

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If there’s one thing we can all agree on these days, it’s that a great deal has changed in just a few months’ time. Companies across every industry have had to quickly adapt amid a pandemic, making critical decisions that safeguard employees, all while taking proper steps to mitigate supply chain disruption and ensure customer needs are met. Numerous businesses have reopened their doors, others are in the planning phase and some are shifting to a hybrid or completely remote business model.

For those food industry businesses preparing to more broadly re-open, here are some general best practices and guidelines that can help streamline the process.

Tollgate requirements, a.k.a. “the checklist”

Just as a baby must take its first steps before it can eventually take off running, companies must take small, calculated steps to enter the new normal both safely and effectively. The first step is to develop a comprehensive and systematic reopening plan that includes a list of tollgate requirements. The tollgate approach ensures that teams do not advance to the next phase or checkpoint of a project before they meet a set of pre-determined criteria. In the context of reopening in the age of COVID-19, this means that an office location must implement its company’s designated set of guidelines (that meet CDC standards) before having permission to reopen.

So, what exactly should a checklist look like, regardless of whether you’re in an office or warehouse.

ÿ       Government requirements

Ensuring that your business is permitted to re-open is the first order of business. If your state or local government has relaxed or lifted stay-at-home orders for non-essential personnel, then you can check this bucket and move on to the following six key action items.

ÿ        Temperature screening

A temperature screening process using either a non-contact thermometer or a thermal screening camera must be in place upon facility entry. In accordance with CDC guidelines, if an employee’s temperature is above 100.4, they should be provided detailed guidance on how to self-quarantine and asked to return home and call their HR representative. All employee results are to be kept confidential.

ÿ        Office configuration requirements

Maintaining physical distance of six feet while working is paramount as we enter the New Normal. For this reason, space requirements must be determined for all facility spaces, from warehouses and office spaces, to meeting and common areas. When it comes to general space requirements, in addition to the six feet apart rule, traffic flow patterns must be placed throughout the office to help ensure the proper distance is maintained. This also applies to traffic patterns upon entering and exiting a facility.

For office spaces, the following specific requirements are key:

·         Cubicle occupancy must allow for 36 square feet of space per employee with 5-foot-high walls between each cubicle. Offices with multiple employees must be configured to meet the 36-square-foot space requirement.

·         Cubicles that are closely configured in attached rows, such as call centers, must implement staggered occupancy (every other cubicle) to meet the minimum physical distancing guidelines.

·         In cases where these changes cannot be made, it will be necessary to rotate work schedules or bring back certain percentages of employees at a time.

Most meeting rooms will have to be re-configured as well. Meeting rooms should be structured to limit in-person meeting attendance to a maximum of 10 people. Remove and store any excess chairs and tables, and post maximum occupancy signage for meeting rooms. Whenever meetings of more than 10 people are required, continue to leverage virtual conferencing tools.

Common areas are no exception. They, too, must be re-worked to ensure physical distances are a minimum of six feet. If outdoor patio areas are available, they can be configured to create breakroom space. Facilities with elevators should limit elevator capacity to two to four people at a time.

Lastly, is a quarantine area. Designate a quarantine area near a facility entrance away from employee work areas that can be used if a COVID-19 positive case is identified and the temporary isolation of an employee is needed.

ÿ        Signage

Communicating all these changes to employees is perhaps one of the most important steps involved in reopening. Post high-visibility signage throughout your facility to promote safety and hygiene practices. Continuing to reinforce good hygiene protocols such as proper hand washing and the wearing of a face covering in any shared spaces helps to eliminate any ambiguity.

ÿ        Training

Part of delivering effective employee communications includes training. Asking employees to complete an online training program that details all the changes is a great way to clearly set and manage expectations. Developing FAQs and providing regular updates to employees through an emergency notification service with voice, text messaging and email capabilities are other helpful methods of deploying important updates.

ÿ        Supplies and hygiene

Ensure a 30-day supply of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment is available and maintained on-site. Place touchless hand sanitizer dispensers at all high-traffic areas, and communicate with local cleaning/janitorial service regarding more frequent and thorough cleaning protocols. 

ÿ        Incident response    

Lastly, designate an incident response team that will ensure that escalation protocols are in place so that any incidents can be expediently reported, investigated and remediated by the local incident response team.

Beyond the four walls

Businesses that operate their own supply chain and fleet have additional elements to consider. Drop and Go procedures, for example, should continue to be implemented, as they help protect drivers and customers by minimizing contact. This policy includes not requiring customer signatures on invoices to reduce contact with paper and other devices, identifying a dedicated delivery location and clear 10- to 20-foot radius around that area, and maintaining the CDC recommended 6-foot social distance guidelines. Vehicles should continue to be cleaned daily, and stepped up cleaning and sanitation protocols within warehouses should remain a top priority.

No turning back

As many businesses determine the best way to bring employees back to the workplace, one thing is certain—there is no going back to the ways of old.

According to a report presented by McKinsey & Company, as early as April, 62% of employed Americans worked at home during the crisis. Their research reveals that 80% of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home, while 41% say that they are more productive than they had been before, and 28% say they are as productive. This extended period of time spent away from the office has cast a light on the many different ways an employee can effectively and efficiently accomplish his or her work. Organizations must now evaluate ways to reinvent roles, create better experiences for talent, improve collaboration and productivity, and reduce real-estate costs. The companies that focus on a transformational approach amid this pivotal time are the ones that will progress and outpace the competition.