The events of the last week have many businesses navigating uncharted territory.

Workplaces are being rearranged to enable employees to have the recommended social distance. And if jobs can be done remotely, workers are being encouraged to work from home.

As some of you are finding out, transitioning from an office-based business to a remote business with little to no notice can feel like drinking from a fire hose.

For those offices where presence is critical, writing and implementing sanitation plans can feel overwhelming as well.

Have faith. You can do this. Read the tips and guidelines below to help you put together a plan that will keep your business functioning while keeping everyone safe.

Tips for Successful Social Distancing in the Workplace

  1. Put together a team.

Don’t shoulder all of the responsibilities, there are too many. Call in your trusted workers and assign duties or areas to ensure each duty has a point person who will ensure it is implemented and followed.

  1. Education

This team lead will take charge of educating employees. Use emails and physical signs to teach employees about effective social distancing, best practices to avoid infection, and how your workplace is changing to accommodate. Be sure to use credible sources such as the CDC website and reputable news outlets.

  1. Lunchroom & Break Areas

This person will oversee the removal & rearrangement of chairs from these areas so 6’ spacing is created, adding signage to the areas explaining the changes and asking employees to respect social distancing.

  1. Office Area

In offices, if space allows move guest & desk chairs 6’ apart. If it doesn’t, remove or turn guest chairs upside down.

Navigation: Within the workplace, minimize doors that people need to open and shut. In non-security areas, prop open doors to lessen potential spots for germ transmission.

  1. Sanitation 

One team member needs to be in charge of a sanitation plan for the workplace. Draft a plan that includes a list of all surfaces (including door handles, tables, counters, desks, keyboards, etc) needing to be disinfected regularly, and make a schedule that details how often to disinfect and who is responsible for each area.

  1. Change Leave Policies to Encourage Sick Workers to Remain at Home

Modify (if necessary) sick leave policies to encourage employees to stay home if sick. If a worker is not going to get paid if they stay home, it encourages them to come to work sick and potentially infect their coworkers.

  1. Management Needs to Set an Example and Walk the Talk

Lead by example. If your employees see management congregating in groups, shaking hands, coming to work sick, or not observing social distancing in other ways, they will do the same.

Tips for Transitioning to a “Work from Home” Business Structure

  1. Make a list of online services you can offer your clients

Brainstorm with your team. Are there services that you currently offer, or which you could create and offer, to your clients that will help them in their business?

  1. Set up and educate employees about platforms to use for online meetings and discussions

Emphasize the importance of continuing to meet, and using face to face technology if possible. Face to face is more personal than a phone call and will help maintain employee morale.

Interviews can also be conducted using these platforms to keep any hiring needs in process.

PC Magazine has a review of Best Online Collaboration Software if your office has not picked one yet.

  1. Establish an IT support process

Setting up and maintaining computers in home offices will inevitably lead to technical difficulties. Designate a person or people to handle this tech support, and communicate their phone numbers and email addresses to employees.

If your company does not have an IT person, consider contracting with one to help troubleshoot during the transition process.

  1. Train your leaders how to effectively lead from afar

Leading remotely is the same in many ways, but different in others. Leaders need to schedule regular “face to face” online meetings to stay connected with employees. Respect work hours and don’t contact workers during off-hours.

Remember that workers will key off of your attitude. Be positive and optimistic. Model courage. Show empathy and kindness.

Keep Morale Up

Keeping morale up is just as important as our work itself. Model the steps below, and encourage your employees to do the same:

  • Stay in contact with clients. Schedule online face to face connect times.
  • Be patient. This is all new and uncharted territory. Remember that everyone is trying as hard as they can, and many are struggling with behind the scenes stressers we know nothing about.
  • Be kind. It’s contagious.
  • Be grateful. Remind your employees and your customers that you value them and appreciate all they are doing.
  • Be positive.

Keep up the Good Work

“There’s only one requirement of any of us, and that is to be courageous. Because courage, as you might know, defines all other human behavior. And, I believe – because I’ve done a little of this myself – pretending to be courageous is just as good as the real thing.”

David Letterman

Each of you is doing amazing things to keep your business afloat in a new and changing environment. Pat yourself on the back, and keep the faith.

Use the information above to come up with a plan and implement it. Doing so will give you and your employees a feeling of control and empower you to conduct business in new and creative ways.

I wish each of you the best and send you strength, courage, patience, and ingenuity in your business and personal endeavors.

Robin