While we might not know when we’re going back to the workplace, it’s imperative to plan—and Professor Fred Foulkes posits that consistency in return initiatives is crucial.
“As multi-disciplinary task forces at companies and universities deal with the complicated challenges of developing effective plans for employees or students to return to work or campus, where they will be safe and have healthy working conditions, it is clear that return decisions will be easier if all initiatives are consistent with the following two principles: social distancing standards, and effective testing in place,” writes Foulkes.
When it comes to rethinking our physical workspaces, Foulkes knows it won’t be an easy task. “People in facilities management, in addition to checking out ventilation, will have to, location by location, determine not only the maximum number of employees who can be safely accommodated in a certain space, but also make appropriate adjustments in office layout, as well as in cafeterias, break rooms, some bathrooms, and dormitories,” writes Foulkes. But it doesn’t stop there—work schedules will have to be adjusted to accommodate remote and alternate work hours. Universities will have to take precautions regarding everything from large lecture classes to student resident life.
“Consistent with the social distancing protocol, companies need to make and announce decisions that at a minimum will respond to the number of people who may attend internal or external meetings, domestic and international travel policies, policies with respect to visitors, vendors, customers, guests, and fans at competitive sporting events, and policies with respect to supply, cleaning, and disposal of personal protective equipment.”
When it comes to testing, Foulkes says that both diagnostic and antibody testing is crucial—and not just for employees and students, but also for employees of contractors who are always present, such as cafeteria workers, security guards, and maintenance people. “The question is where and how the testing will be done,” says Foulkes. “In some situations, it can be done in the community while in other cases, it will have to be done at the company or the university. This will require medical guidance and supervision with the agreed protocols clear with respect to specific testing results.”
Even with all of the uncertainty around returning to the workplace, one thing is for sure—it’ll take top management leadership, lots of training in adjusting to new protocols, and constant communications. “When CEOs and college and university presidents and other members of the top leadership team not only wear masks, have their temperatures taken and stand at least 6 feet from their colleagues, but also show compassion and flexibility with respect to exceptional circumstances or cases, one will know that these crucial changes are for real,” writes Foulkes.
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