With manufacturers ramping up and the potential for office workers and some broader definition of retail allowed in coming weeks, the prospect of employees passing through doors into work is daunting.
The new paradigm under pandemic means much more work and much more expense for employers. And most companies have questions about the logistics of keeping employees safe. Those questions are basic yet critical to the goal of balancing work and, well, living.
We consulted experts to answer some of the trickier questions below and provide guidance on the "new normal." If you have other questions, email Crain's Detroit Business reporter Dustin Walsh at [email protected], and we'll answer them in coming weeks.
Should I clean my facility before workers return even if an employee never tested positive?
Absolutely, said Sheldon Yellen, CEO of Birmingham-based recovery and restoration services firm Belfor, which has performed 7,100 COVID-19 related cleaning jobs since February including the now infamous Diamond Princess cruise ship.
"Hire a professional. It doesn't have to be Belfor, but don't trust the guy that just mixed some bleach and water. I believe a deep clean before you let anyone back is paramount. That means your mechanical systems and your duct systems need to be cleaned, too. Have your carpets cleaned. Then a week later, I'd have them come in again for a regular cleaning. Keep that up for three or four weeks. A weekly cleaning is going to give people a lot of confidence."
Should I temperature check employees before allowing them to enter?
Yes. Most Michigan counties "strongly recommend" temperature screenings for all on site employees. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends screeners either stand behind a partition or through a plexiglass window as the screener will be inside the ideal 6 feet of social distancing. Anyone with temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit should not be allowed inside
How do I get my office workers up several floors in an office tower?
Creatively, said Nate Anderson, a partner for management consulting firm Bain & Co. in Chicago, which is advising members of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association.
"This is one of the biggest bottlenecks, particularly in a multi-tenant building. What was learned out of Asia is that staggering start times in 15-minute windows works best. Do the same thing for stairwells. For elevators, you need to keep people spaced with proper markings as they wait. Limit the occupancy to four and have each person remain on a marked spot in the corner of the elevator. We encourage all companies to ask employees that are able to to take the stairs, particularly on the bottom four floors, to reduce the burden. If the building has enough space, make the stairs one way up and one way down."
Should I make my office workforce that's currently working from home return?
Probably not, said Kristi Stepp, partner at Ann Arbor-based management recruiting and advisory firm Sigred Solutions.
"Beyond the logistics, people are enjoying more flexibility working from home and likely want that to continue. If they've made it work, try to let them. Remember there are generational differences as well. This probably played into the millennial comfort zone, but baby boomers were probably more challenged and not feeling as productive and as engaged. Remember those may want to come back to work sooner than others."
How, exactly, do I keep the bathrooms clean?
Diligently, Yellen said.
"We have boxes of gloves in our bathrooms. We put some pump sprayers in the bathroom full of disinfectant. It's one in at a time and when they are done, they are asked to spray down the unit as they leave. On the outside of the door, they mark down the time they left, so the next person knows to wait 10 to 15 minutes before entering. That might not be workable for everyone, but businesses should try to maintain as close to cleaning between each person as possible."
Should I maintain the emergency technology investments made to survive the pandemic?
Yes, said Ray Telang, market managing partner advisory firm PwC.
"Videoconference calls have been a part of our life for the last 20 years, but we very rarely used that format. Today, we're using it more often than not. All of our people are. It's provided a more personal experience through this pandemic and people are more comfortable with it now. This process was going to happen over time, but the pandemic accelerated it. We are where we ultimately would have been three to five years down the road."