With state officials setting the stage for the economy to reopen, business owners across North Texas are looking at how to return to work as early as Friday.
Businesses began preparing Monday after Gov. Greg Abbott announced his multi-step plan to allow select businesses to open at 25 percent capacity as long as social distancing and other public health measures are put in place.
With fewer than four days to prepare, some executives have been scrambling to put together plans and procedures, while others have decided it is too soon to return to work.
The Dallas Business Journal spoke with more than a dozen executives, advisors, and experts to find out what decision-makers should be thinking about while deciding when and how to come back to work. Those that Business Journal spoke with were implementing or recommending specific actions tied to their diverse industries, but four key points emerged over the course of the interviews.
Be transparent with employees
Employers need to set out a clear plan and stick to it, according to the experts.
Protocols should be outlined for which workers stay home, if people will come into the workplace on a rotation and whether schedules will be staggered to avoid large groups. Other key points that should be communicated include how common areas will be cleaned and how changes to the office layout will accommodate social distancing.
"The number one thing is the safety of your employees and then, just to couple with that, their sense of safety," said Kim Crawford, partner at accounting firm Sutton Frost Cary. "Do they feel comfortable coming back and what do we need to do to help that happen?"
Whether employers are screening for COVID-19 symptoms each day or relying on employees to self-assess, it is important for the health of the entire company to ensure workers feel safe reporting illnesses or contact with those who may be sick, according to Dr. Diana Cervantes, Director of the Master of Public Health Epidemiology Program at University of North Texas Health Science Center.
If employees fear losing money, they may take a fever-reducing medication and still show up to work, she said.
For Felix Lozano, partner in charge of Whitley Penn’s Dallas office, it's important that everyone is on the same page. The firm plans to reopen in a limited capacity in the coming days.
"This is truly going to be a joint collaboration and teamwork at the highest level between owners of businesses and managers, and all of our team members," Lozano said. "We've got to be in lockstep together."
Over-communicate with customers
Whether a company is consumer-facing or B2B, communicating with customers on how face-to-face interactions will play out is also important for companies, according to the sources the Business Journal spoke to this week.
"You want to always make sure that if you're a business, you have to think, how am I going to make this as easy as possible for the person that these implementations are geared towards," Cervantes said.
She said it's important for companies to make things visible to their customers, using signage and being clear on their processes.
Some printers, such as Phase 3 which has a printing facility in Dallas, are selling mirror clings for bathrooms to remind people how long to wash their hands, floor decals to demarcate the appropriate social distance and arrows to make tight retail spaces one-way.
For more tips from local leaders on what to think about before reopening, click here.
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