By ADDISON SHAW
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many organizations continue to ask themselves and local and state governments when they can bring employees back to the office, and start building towards normalcy again.
The “when can we go back?” question is best left for authorities, epidemiologists, and public health officials. We can, however, answer the “how” part of that question. How can businesses and organizations prepare for the return to the office/reopening and structure their reconstitution plans?
How to Get Back to the Office
After the COVID-19 pandemic, the return to normal life won’t be quick, despite how many of us may want it to be. This slow transition back to normal will also apply to organizations and business, a fact reconstitution plans will need to account for. (FEMA also has advice for businesses and organizations working on their reconstitution plans here.)
There’s a significant chance many workplaces switch back to working in the office before the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Plans should account for this possibility, and include procedures for ensuring an office is safe for its workers to return to their desks. This includes identifying high traffic areas and implementing regular cleaning and sanitizing operations.
After such a long period of inactivity, building and facilities will also need a quick review to ensure the workplace is safe and adequate enough for workers. This includes incorporating maintenance tasks, or at least inspections, into your business’ or organization’s reconstitution plan. Find ways to better ventilate facilities as well.
Alert employees to the decision your leadership team has made as well. Put in lines for communicating to all stakeholders, including employees, vendors, and other entities affiliated with your organizations, that your office(s) and/or facilities will be opening their doors once again.
And because the return to work doesn’t mean a complete return to normalcy, offer training for employees about the coming events. If they need information about how to keep themselves safe, make sure that’s outlined within the reconstitution plan. Provide workers with the support they need to ensure their safety and well-being.
As we mentioned, there’s a good chance the COVID-19 pandemic has not fully passed in many communities by the time many businesses and organizations will be returning to the office.
Other critical components of reconstitution plans will be new procedures and standards that limit the transmission of COVID-19 and help workers ensure they don’t become ill. Regular cleaning and sanitizing will play a big role, as will the availability of gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer.
Staggered returns should be planned for. Arrange who will visit the office and when they’ll do so to help workers maintain social distance. Also, continue supporting telecommute and the tools your employees use to make it possible. See which employees will need to continue working from home even during the initial phases of reopening too, and allow them to do so.
After Action Reporting
Pandemics are very rare occurrences. Because of their infrequency, it’s easy to chuck these reconstitution plans away after the pandemic ends and the virus is no longer a concern.
Doing so isn’t advisable, as many experts anticipate we’ll see a second wave in some form later in the year as the northern hemisphere starts to enter the fall and winter months. Reconstitution plans, especially in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, have immediate “re-watch value.”
Perform an after-action report of your response. See if there are any ways to improve, or any items that slipped under the rug. Work those corrections back into your plans.
Even if a second wave happens, is there any more use for reconstitution plans? While COVID-19 requires us to follow very strict hygiene and social distancing measures, these plans can be adapted and activated again. Businesses and organizations are prone to disruptions from all kinds of disasters. And with the work landscape changing because of COVID-19, many offices may opt to keep employees home if they can during disasters; reconstitution plans will have a lot of application in these scenarios.
Piecing Together a Reconstitution Plan
Getting back to the office won’t be simple, and businesses and organizations will need to prepare to ensure doing so goes smoothly. Not only will these plans need to account for the initial restart and “move-in” period, but the transition back into normal in-office operations and how the COVID-19 pandemic could change that. Reconstitution plans will be extremely important for business and organizations as we slowly approach a return to normalcy not only in our daily lives, but in the work spaces as well.