COVID-19 UPDATE: Communication is Key When Re-Opening Your Business

As the pressure mounts for the COVID-19 shutdown to end — and for the state, national, and international economies to begin functioning and recovering — it becomes more important than ever for employers to have accurate information about what’s happening, why it’s happening, and the ability to talk about it over the coming weeks.

Are you ready to re-open?

Stay at Home 2.0

States are handling this situation differently. In New Hampshire, Governor Chris Sununu just announced on May 1 that he is implementing a “new, modified Stay at Home Order, Stay at Home 2.0, in effect until May 31, 2020.”

Stay at Home 2.0 provides specific guidance for employers in a range of industries so that businesses can begin a phased-in re-opening or expansion of services throughout the month. The general guidance and specific industry guidance that is available through the Governor’s office is based on recommendations from OSHA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Universal Guidance

Public and Private Campgrounds Guidance

New Hampshire State Park Guidance

Manufacturing Guidance

Health Care Services Guidance

Retail Store Guidance

Drive-In Movie Theater Guidance

Public and Private Golf Course Guidance

Barbers and Hair Salon Guidance

Restaurant Guidance

What’s the Plan?

OSHA will be expecting most employers to have an infectious disease response plan in place before re-opening, and to have implemented a process for developing workplace controls to protect employees. But even if a formal policy isn’t developed — and there is no mandate to do so — it still makes sense for employers to consider documenting an infectious disease policy. This is especially true for employers who have contact with older people and/or people with underlying health conditions that make then susceptible

Should OSHA come to call for any reason in the months ahead, it will be beneficial to be able to show them how you are educating your employees about risks and what actions you have taken to protect your employees.

New, Unfolding Challenges

As our local economy begins to re-open, employers will need to prepare themselves for many new challenges, including implementing new safety procedures. Some employees won’t like them, while others will feel that you haven’t done enough.

There will be new work schedules to limit the number of people in a facility at any one time, staggered lunch and rest breaks, and new challenges around social distancing, and what that means for your work environment. There may be new internal rules about sharing tools, sharing vehicles, and disinfecting work areas after use.

Nothing is the same, and there are many new things to remember. It feels strange. And if you’re feeling this way, imagine how your employees are feeling.

Communicate, communicate, communicate…

As I’ve been talking with employers and employees over the past few weeks, one thing that has become very clear to me is the importance of communication.

Because of the media-fueled confusion about what is true — and what is necessary in our response — employers must be prepared to communicate clearly with employees about many issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and how your business is responding to it. Using the best information and guidance that’s available, you must arm yourself and your managers with the tools they need to communicate with employees about the importance of basic precautions. Do your homework. Do not simply default to the CDC or the Governor.

You also need to practice precautions yourself and continually educate employees about how these actions are being taken to protect everyone.

Fear and angst are our enemies at times like this. They exaggerate uncertainty and create unnecessary unrest. Communication can go a very long way in providing peace of mind in your workplace, even during a pandemic.

Many years ago, someone told me that when an airplane experiences turbulence, the worst thing the pilot can do is not say anything. Even if we don’t know precisely what’s going on, communicating what we know, and what we can do, helps. It helps a lot.

Communicate with me

Feel free to communicate with me if you have questions or concerns about how your business is approaching Stay at Home 2.0, or any other issue regarding the ever-emerging compliance issues you are facing.

About the Author: James Laboe

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