Stay-at-home orders due to the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus impacted different businesses in different ways, but nonessential businesses that had to close their doors, but could have their employees work from home, generally, did.
Now that state and local governments are beginning to lift those restrictions, you’re probably more than ready to get your whole software development team back to the office and back to your normal way of operating. But are those realistic expectations?
Here are 10 things to think about before you open the doors to your office again:
1. All of your employees may not want to return at once.
Getting the all-clear from your government leaders doesn’t mean every member of your team will be positioned to leave their home offices and commute to work. Some may have underlying health conditions that could make it dangerous for them to venture out. Others may be taking care of kids whose schools haven’t reopened or caring for family members. Consider bringing people back in steps that make the most sense for you and your team.
2. Remote working doesn’t have to end.
Working remotely may have proven itself as a good option for some members of your team. Your employees may prefer it — and it may be a more cost-effective way for your business to operate. A Gartner survey on March 30, 2020, found that 74 percent of CFOs plan to transition at least 5 percent of their workforce and about one-fourth will transition 20 percent of their workforce to permanently work at home after coronavirus.
3. Is it time to reinstall cubicles?
Coronavirus has businesses taking a hard look at a lot of previously accepted conventions — like the open office. That model allowed you to fit more desks into your floor plan and encouraged collaboration among developers, but it doesn’t conform with the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing. Also, an open floor plan may not be the best way to give your employees a feeling of security at work.
4. Review OSHA workplace safety guidelines.
OSHA has issued guidance on how employers can reduce their employees’ risk of exposure to COVID-19, including developing an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan. The plan should include potential risk factors for infection and the controls necessary to address them.
Additionally, you will probably have to update company policies — and land on a plan to enforce them.
5. Decide if you need to ramp up cleaning procedures.
Part of OSHA guidance is to practice good hygiene and housekeeping. Review the routines your cleaning service or on-staff maintenance team use to make sure they’re using effective and EPA-approved disinfectants to fight COVID-19.
6. You need to comply with your local government’s regulations.
Some state and local governments may require that employees returning to the workplace wear masks, at least for the near term. Others may want temperature screenings or other tests. You may want to weigh this against continuing remote work.
7. Know the answer about PTO before your employees ask.
During the shutdown you may have had employees use PTO or sick days, but if orders are lifted in May, that means 7 or 8 months in 2020 without a chance for your employees to take a real vacation or take care of health problems. Keep an open mind about your employee’s needs.
8. Make a decision about travel.
If members of your team routinely traveled to client meetings or industry shows, will that continue to be a part of your company’s future? It may take a while for your employees to feel comfortable with travel, even if restrictions are lifted.
9. Schedule a call with your accountant.
Depending on the vertical markets you serve, your revenues and projections may look different than they did in January. Take time to review your budget, and if you furloughed employees, work with your financial team to make data-based decisions about whether it’s time to call them back to work.
10. Plan for the possibility that some of your employees won’t be returning.
If you furloughed employees, plan for the eventuality that they may not come back. Keep them informed of your timeline to reopen and answer questions to confirm there’s a future with your company — and they don’t have to put the word out to other employers.
Build a Flexible Plan
Since the initial announcement that the U.S. needed to close businesses to help “flatten the curve,” guidelines aimed at keeping people safe from coronavirus have changed frequently as scientists and leaders learned new information. There’s no reason to believe that guidelines won’t continue to change as people return to work, the risk of new virus hotspots emerge, and treatment and vaccine development advance.
Do what you can to stay agile as well as productive and safe.