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Top Considerations Before You Reopen Your Business

If you’re thinking about reopening your business, you’ve got questions. The good news is we’ve got answers. Joining Jonathan is Ivelices Thomas the CEO and founder of HR and Beyond. She takes us through the top considerations every business owner needs to reconcile before reopening.



Hi Jon from Flying Chimp Media here. If you were thinking about reopening your business, you’ve got questions. The good news is we’ve got answers. We’re going give them to you now joining me on this webcast is Ivelices Thomas the CEO and founder of HR and Beyond and she is my go-to subject matter expert on all thing’s requirements, safety, reopening etc. I send people to her because she’s got the answers and I don’t but if you want to know about blogging and SEO you know to go to right?

Alright so thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to talk with me and our audience. I asked you to try and focus again we were just saying in the Green Room second ago we could go on for hours talking about this because it’s a moving target everything about this is a moving target what are maybe if we could focus it to the top three areas that a business and employer needs to consider when they’re planning to reopen and they have to plan it doesn’t happen by itself.

Absolutely, and it starts with a plan and it’s a plan that needs to occur before you start opening your business. And before you start bringing your employees, so it’s not important and like you said we were talking about this this can really be a topic that we can go on for hours talking about you’ll have to promise to come back absolutely because there’s so many important things to discuss but it’s a new world and it’s a new reality both for business owners and employees. So, it’s important to be very thoughtful when we’re thinking about reopening especially as we in South Florida get closer and closer to that. So what I try to do is really capture the few minutes we’ll be talking about on probably one of the most be most critical things that you should think about before you reopen and like I said, it should be a plan it should be a written plan with some of the things that we’re going talk about today. So, as we get started and as we start thinking about okay “now we’re reopening”.

One of the things you really need to think about is will you need to reconfigure your existing workplace now with the coronavirus still exists, right? Nothing has changed and we’re still going to need to have physical distancing. We’ll be on social distancing because we’re going to be social, we’re going to be at work. We’re going to be in offices and to what extent we are is really going to be up to the employer to determine. So, you know looking at your existing floor plans and your office if you’re an office space with desk, do you have an open floor plan where people are sitting next to each other closely? Probably not conducive to physical distancing. Probably your employees will not be comfortable with that. So, do you need to change your configuration? Do you need to move tables further apart? You need to invest in dividers and all several businesses that are investing in such things. Sure. Service-oriented business that serves customers, how are you going to keep physical distancing between your customers and your employees for everyone’s safety and comfort if you’re a restaurant right? We’re talking about you may be able to open at 25 percent capacity or more depending on where we live, but your table set up. How are you going to distance your customers and your tables so that they feel comfortable with the physical distance being sufficient? So, looking at your space where your employees will be where your customers will be how that is. Rational take place is probably one of the first steps before you even think about reopening. So, I mean you literally would have to work with some kind of floor plan. Even if you drew it on a piece of paper. Let me ask you this now. You’re not old enough to remember but they used to have the smoking section on an airplane. All right, you probably heard about it. Your parents probably told you about it. So, there was this magic this magical line that could move on the flight, depending on who booked smoking and non-smoking. All where that was the imaginary dividing line between the non-smoking section and the smoking section and magically the smoke would not go from this are to this are gray. So, when you say, you know, well, I’ve got desk. I mean, we’re not having closed a lot of people don’t have their own office great. That’s kind of a thing from the past of true open floor plan. I’m not a giant fan of it’s very noisy, but whatever. people do it because the density if I had a divider between me and the next desk, But I go to the same kitchenette I go to the same bathroom I go to the same door. I walk in and out of the same conference room is some of this just theater that we’re doing is some of this just like throwing magic dust? Is it going to make a difference?

Well, I think honestly, it’s about employers and businesses making that best effort because the reality is there’s only so much that anyone can do because we’re going to have to go back to reopening our society and interacting with each other, right? So that’s what businesses are now trying to figure out everywhere is what is that best effort to attempt to promote as physical distancing and as much sense of safety within their Workforce and within their customers. So, you know, you bring up a good example, you know, does it make sense to continue to keep open collaborative spaces or spaces where people usually congregate like if you have a lunchroom, right? Does that make sense? Probably not because it’s going to be very difficult. Difficult to maintain any type of physical distancing or monitoring of kind of those that space in that interaction. So those are decisions you need to make doesn’t make sense will people be happy about it. No, but there are a lot of things that people are not going to be happy about because the reality is work has changed and will continue to change as this pandemic continues to involve.

I think I think you’ve hit on two really key things. I want to call him out. I want to give him a name. First of all, I think employees and employers have to resign themselves to accepting risk mitigation not elimination exactly is no such thing as risk elimination in this game. Okay, if you want to reopen. If you want to drive revenue, we’re going to have to open the curtain a little bit and when we open the curtain a little bit a lot of good can come in and some bad may come into. But there’s no there’s no elimination where risk mitigation and even things like I pour myself a cup of coffee you come in and pour yourself a cup of coffee. We’re 6 feet apart. We’re five minutes apart. We both touch the same coffee pot. You could lose your mind. Something that I keep hearing and I think you’ve nailed it when we talk about moving forward. It’s forward. It’s not backward and what I mean by that is people keep saying, when we go back to normal, we are not going back to normal. There’s a new normal. We have to embrace. I had to go out and wear a mask just to go pick up something in the parking lot curbside of had to wear a mask employer. Are they expected to supply cleaning supplies should they have Clorox and wipes and things for themselves for their employees for every commentary and employees. Now when you walk away from something you have to wipe it down. I mean are people going to embrace looking forward a new normal for the next eight months 12 months. I don’t know. And stop looking backwards and saying back to normal because there’s no going back.

No and you’re and you’re actually leaving me directly to the second point which is people which is one of the other most very important topics you need to prepare for is what are going to be your health and safety practices in the workplace when you’re ready. Open your doors, right? What is going be a process? You need have plan. It can’t just be oh we’re so clean. No, you need to have what is good? What are going to be your sanitation procedures? Are you cleaning before the workday during the workday after the work they all of the above which probably your employees would want to know that you’re doing all of the above the process. Are you hiring a company? Are you hiring people to do that that you didn’t have before because you know pre-COVID most businesses probably didn’t have cleaning people. Come till the end of the workday and most of the time All they did was probably vacuum the carpets white into the garbage can and that’s cans and that’s it. That’s not sanitation in our polls covid reality. Right? So, what is going to be your cleaning sanitation process? What are you going to do during the day to make sure that you’re limiting as many things like you said having your example having a community coffee pot. Probably not going to be a good idea. You know, just like I heard there. Or you know CDC the isn’t recommending buffet restaurants reopen. It’s that same idea where you have so many people touching the same thing, but things always pushes of those. Oh, all before covid going to mention any names. Even thinking about the realities of what people to do a copy machine. Right? This is have coffee machines that people need to use so what are you going to do? Are you going to make Maybe try and centralize those that make copies and then establish a sanitation process that happens after my body for sure. Absolutely. Right? wear a Are going require people mask during the course of the workday if is unavoidable that people are in certain proximity towards each other. Who is going to provide the PPE. Wait a minute, you know, this has been an issue Amazon workers were going to strike. Instacart said ho ho ho I’m getting paid down here and somehow, I have to bear the cost of gloves and masks when they are jacked up in price. If you can get them at all now, it’s little bit easier but you know a month ago you could so if you say I expect my employees who aren’t even customer-facing if there is a customer in your business, you know that comes in the oven. To wear PPE which sucks after a while, by the way, I’m in greeting to that. You know, I don’t know how nurses do it all day, but they do. We have a new found appreciation. But if you pass if you’re the employer and you put a protocol out, which I think is wonderful and responsible who Bears the cost of the supply that you test a has to be used and who sets the standard if you don’t supply it and I stick a sock around one and you go that’s not an N95. It’s a double-edged sword. As soon as you said standard you then have to facilitate reaching that standard. Don’t you? Well, it depends and that’s a very lawyerly answer. You know, I’m also a labor employment lawyer but it really does depend. It depends on the jurisdiction depends on where you live and work certain States already have laws in place where If an employer mandates certain whatever tool and this could be seen as a tour sir. Uniform a certain whatever in order for them to perform their job or report to work in some states. The employer is required to provide that some states or localities have already begun covid to pass specific regs that touch on that Florida is not one of them as of yet. So in the State of Florida, yes, you can say employees, you know, you have to wear if In this area or all employees, you have to wear some sort of facial covering then they do and they need to provide it but it’s similar to then comes the question. Okay. So, are you going to be very specific about it? Because now you’re causing a little bit more of an issue and most employers are probably not going to want to or should do that in my opinion employer should provide it as if, but it should be so for instance. I have a client. I’m working with now and there. They’re going through that same issue. We’re working through. Okay, what is our plan going to be and are we going to require people to wear masks? So, we’re going to recommend it in this case, especially in certain areas, but those that are customers safe facing employees. We’re going provide it for them. The client is going to provide it because why because those are the ones that are having more interaction and will be more at risk of being not able to keep necessarily complete physical distance. Employees that work in the office and are either in cubicles or aren’t necessarily next to other people that yes, we’re going to recommend you wear a mask. We’re not going to provide it for you unless you say that you have no other way of obtaining mask, then we will provide it. So, we kind of layered it so that it’s still a responsible employee. We’re still meeting the needs of the employee and that’s what employers and businesses are going to need to understand that it’s going to now more. Important than ever to demonstrate your employees that you are understanding that this is something that will be very challenging and that you’re willing to meet the needs of employees and then be very employee centered in the decisions make that you as a lot of those decisions are going to be very challenging for employees to except, you know, even thinking think about the new normal before if you worked in an office. How many times did you have people ordering takeout? You have delivery people that show up they drop off things to the and sometimes they take the elevator. Are you still going to allow that? What are you going to do about third parties you really need to think about that is the receptionist going to be happy that she has to accept deliveries touch things all stay meet with people all day. Does that make sense? So, it’s a lot.

So, we go back to risk mitigation and what you just said the segment you just said comes down to one word, leadership. Absolutely. The employee – I personally think most employers don’t know more about this and how to do this. Then the employee does. I just think they don’t know because we don’t know I see a health virologist expert on TV whatever they are, and they go we’re learning something new about it every day. Well once you put that out there and I’m a layperson and is a layperson and your boss is a labor and you know, and you go. Alright, so we’re in this together. We should make good decisions together somewhere. The employee is saying if you’re asking me or inviting me making a possible for me to go back to an office in a new normal that employer has to find leadership they because they don’t know anymore and it sounds like you’re providing that to something where does where does a company go? To make a plan to have an analysis to know what the law is, or it just wants to do by their employee employees. Most employers don’t want their employees sick. Most employers don’t want employees getting customers sick. I mean like we don’t want anything to do with this right? mean most of know, most people like that so but where do they find a leadership when there’s a vacuum of reliable information, right? Varies I think dependent on the size of the business, right? So, if you’re a larger business, you’re probably dealing with your human resources department, which is important, right? Because those are your people focus and then also which we won’t touch on today because that’s a whole larger conversation. There’s a lot of employment legislation that has come out as a real as it relates to covid as well that businesses need to be aware of so having that conversation. And planning with HR from the employer perspective is also important a larger business may also have health and safety people. They usually have outside counsel. So, it’s a collaborative conversation. Right? But what happens is when you’re in that small to medium size business space, which is most are most businesses in the United States. That’s what 80% or small business. Absolutely you don’t have access to those resources often. So, you Really need to seek them out because you’re not going to have them internally. So, like you said someone like myself. I’m an HR consultant and I happen to be an attorney as well. So I work with my clients with that and also seek out what other resources we would need whether it be a health and safety expert whatever it may be to make sure that we have a multidisciplinary conversation and ensure that we’re kind of touching on all of the knees from the business and from the employee perspective. Spective so I recommend that employees don’t try and figure this out themselves. I often tell even you know before covid when he came to HR or labor and employment law, please don’t learn it through Google because Google is great. I Google everything but when comes to making decisions about your business that may be regulated. They have financial impacts, may lead to litigation which there will be a lot of that as a result of, you know, post covid you want to make sure that you are dealing with experts in relative fields from a substance into perspective here that you know, I looked up on WebMD last week. My stomach hurt look it up on WebMD turns out I’m pregnant so surprise.

Let me ask you a little bit of a pointed question. I noticed a lot of CPAs that I’m connected with you know through different social media lines are doing little webinars on how to deal with PPP how to apply for it how to make sure that you’re going to spend it properly track it for our people in your space doing the same kind of thought leadership getting out there and holding webinars and stuff. Is that something I clean up for? Yeah. Absolutely. I’ve done a few for a variety of organizations so there are different associations a lot of Human Resources specific organizations and even law firms are holding webinars because again, this is a very employee focused and employment law focused issue that we’re going to be dealing with as businesses reopen another example. So, for instance next week, I’m going to be presenting with score. There were going to be a presenting specifically on this topic the things that businesses need. To consider when they are before they reopen and then considerations once they reopen as well because it’s not going to end just because you come up with your plan and you’ve written down how you think going to reopen and how you think you’re going to manage it’s going to be completely different once were actually operating and this is fluid. There are so many things that are changing with the law with this pandemic with this all over the place. So, it’s going to have to be a constant. Dialogue that you have and kind of just reassessing and just having to Pivot a lot. I think there’s going to be a lot of pivoting from how you operate your business to how you manage your employees. I mean, which leads me to the third I think topic of the three that I was going to cover today is how are you going to make the decision to bring your employees back? Right? Who are you going to bring back? right. How are you going Use an objective criterion, which is preferred. I know some people might just instinctively think well, you know, everyone’s talking about employees that are at risk or a higher risk, so I’m not going to bring back my older employees yet because they’re the ones that I risk which may be a very well-meaning thought but actually leads you down the path of discrimination and or disparate impact if your older employees are the ones that are negatively impacted. They’re not being brought back. So, thinking thoughtfully about who you bring back thoughtfully about do you need to bring back a hundred percent of your Workforce? Probably not in a lot of cases again work is changing businesses have realized that guess what employees can be productive working from home and they’ve been doing so under very challenging circumstances with kids at home while at the same time. I’m helping them with their schooling yet. I’m sure a lot of businesses will tell you that they have employees have been productive. So having that thoughtful analysis and evaluation of who do I bring back when using objective criteria who can still remain working remotely that is going to continue to be productive and doesn’t negatively impact the business and analyzing the impact of the decisions that you’re making to make sure that you don’t have that disparate impact maybe uh, you know, Negatively impacting your older employees or negatively impact your you know employees are mothers or however, it may be so making those thoughtful decisions. And then what are you going to do when I read you reopen right? Even if you decide to reopen can you stagger start times? Right? Maybe you don’t have to bring everyone in back in from that standard 9 to 5, right? Maybe have group of employees start at 8:30. You have another set start at nine another at 9:30 that way your staggering when people come and stay. I agree when people leave so these are all different things that I think we need to start thinking about work differently, because like you said the beginning we’re not going back to normal. This is a new normal with a lot of considerations. We never had to consider before this period of time so being prepared and being thoughtful and creative on how you can accomplish those things is very important. So, you touched on something. I want to kind of come back. To it in that segment, which is how an employer should be evaluating which employees and when they come back there’s a whole range of accelerated risk factors enhanced risk factors age is just one of them just one of them and then it turns out when you look at the whole list of people who were smokers smoke 20 years ago for what done matter whatever it is. About 60 percent of the u.s. Population falls into some of that including overweight, which is also like 80% of the US population and I don’t know that the shutdown is made that any better, but you see what I’m saying? If they say well obesity all sixty percent of Americans are obese. Look at cuts out 60 percent, right? So, we do we then go back to kind of classic HR which is what is the employers to no health risk about him. Lori and genetics screaming and this and what was it going to be used for and who gets access to it? So, it’s a thorny road to walk out. It’s a Minefield and I think employer jurors would be very wise to mm bring the employees into that conversation and ask you whose first of all who’s comfortable coming back into an office environment who feels safer now, who cares? Can stay home if they want to lots of people would love to go back to an office or retail wherever they were. Lots of people would love to go back but they also have to have they have to be honest. I could look at employees that have no risk factors except for they take care of an elderly parent down the street or in the mouth. I would know that you know, like there’s so many things to play. Do you think the employer needs to bring the employees into that conversation? Well, I think I all I think it’s always good idea to engage your workforce in a dialogue when you’re making decisions, right? But I think that the key to it is understanding of what your goals and how you intend intent initially to accomplish them because you don’t want it to be a free-for-all say hey everybody. What do think we should do because then it looks like one you have no idea but Yes, it’s important to engage them in a dialogue because you want to make them feel as though they’re part of the process, especially something that’s going be so challenging not just being told what to do, but you have to be cautious in the conversations that you have because similar to you know, you brought up any weather high risk or any type of health information. The employer has no to inquire into those things, so or make assumptions based on that because in the Decisions that they’re making so it’s recommended do not use the high risk factors at all in making the decisions that you’re making however in your evaluation of you know, who can work remotely whatever once you’ve come up with your objective criteria. Number one, you can engage our employees in a dialogue and say hey we’re coming with our plan. This is the framework of how we’re going look at things. We’d like to engage certain categories of work that we’ve determined could oblique continue to work from home and see how those employees feel about it and then you engage them a dialogue because at that point you’ve already established the framework you establish an objective criteria, you’re looking at categories of work that could be done remotely and then you can engage them and dialogue many and see the be people that say, well, you know, actually it would work for me to work from home because have kids and there’s no summer camp and I won’t have anyone to care for them and okay CBO, the maybe we can accommodate that or You know what? My kids are home. I’m dying to get out of here. Either way I get away. So, engaging in a dialogue helps but you have to be very cautious as an employer. You need to have a plan and then you can engage your Workforce in a dialogue. But at the end of the day you can use the most objective criteria possible. It’s important to at the end. Once you make those decisions to look at the impact of those decisions because your decisions may be very well-meaning and very objective with no discriminatory intent and no use of high risk factors are whatever may be but you may unintentionally be impacting one segment of the population more than and that’s what we call disparate impact which means even though there wasn’t a discriminatory intent discriminatory intent, you’re still discriminating against a group or class. So it’s a very thoughtful process and dialogue that which is why it’s important for businesses to engage professionals as they plan these things because If you look at anything in the news or already, I employment litigation has already started and it will only rise when we’re talking about health and safety from OSHA discrimination, you know, all kinds of employment litigation is going to be on the rise because this is a very uneasy Uncharted Territory for both businesses and employees. Absolutely with that. I’ve taken enough of your time. I do appreciate I know you’re super busy if people want to see if there’s maybe a webinar something you’re doing or an event best place to find you LinkedIn and find me on LinkedIn. I will always post events that I’m participating in and I often share as well other events that I don’t I listened myself because I’m learning to this is something that’s changing every day either I participate or am learning and watching myself. So, find me on LinkedIn Ivelices Thomas and you know, you can See what we’re up to great. Great. I’ll be sure to tag that when I post this. So, people can find you. I think you are a tremendous wealth of information and thought leadership. I appreciate you taking time out of your day to share it with us, and I feel honored. Thank you very much Ivelices. Thank you, and I will hopefully talk to you soon. Thank you. Take care. Thank you.

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