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Checklist to Get Ready to Reopen

Today, we’re going to actually dive into a checklist, which will be available on our website of great information to reopen. It’s our return-to-work checklist and I’m so excited to be talking about this. We may not be all there, we’re not all be reopening coming up soon, some of us may have never shut down. But this episode, we’re going to talk about some of the steps you can take to get ready for that. Before we go too deep, though, I want to ask you, please subscribe to the podcast. You can find us on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, pretty much any podcatcher of your choice. You can also subscribe at which will give you exclusive subscriber-only content. This is going to have on our website People Processes. There’s a link to actually download the checklist that we’re going to be going through here on the podcast today. Podcasts are great, but sometimes you just need to download it. You will have to drop your email in to get it. If you’re already subscribed, please don’t be afraid to drop your email in there again. I promise it scrubs for duplicates, but it’s just the easiest way we could figure out how to get this out to everybody quickly. We will also be probably emailing it directly to a lot of you who are already on our subscriber list. I think almost all of you will get a copy via email. It’s just some of you who haven’t subscribed recently, I can’t send you big files like this. Okay. It’s not a big file. It’s two pages but I can’t email you the actual file. 

Anyway. Families First Coronavirus Relief Act has been a heck of a thing from a legal perspective. We’ve had CARES Act requirements, we’ve had issues around sanitation, all kinds of changes. If you’re ready to open up shop and you’re bringing people back, here’s the first place to start. There’s a poster, FFCRA poster, you gotta put it in a visible place. If employees are gonna remain working from home, you should have already emailed it to them or post it to the company interweb or the employee website or put it as part of their documents. They’ve signed a receipt for it, whatever. But when you start opening back up and people are coming back in, put the poster up, I know you’ve probably forgotten about it. It was a month ago at this point that that went out. But if you haven’t done it yet, now is the time. 

Okay. Step II. You need to do a review of your hiring practices. Yes, not all of your employees are going to come back. As you start reopening, you may need to hire people just like you used to. You need to take a look at that. See if your staffing needs have changed. Maybe you don’t need the same roles. Do you need to change benefits or pay to become more competitive, maybe less competitive? I don’t know. But if everybody’s coming back to work at the same time, you may need to do a little dance. Get some better people in there. You need to review your interview process, both the application process, the interview process, the screening process, to get that to a remote technique as much as possible. Anyway, you need to think about your onboarding practices. Again, no reason to be passing a bunch of paper around the office or having people sit in someone else’s office. We can do this electronically now. So review your onboarding practices, make sure that they’re up to date, and that they’re good to go. And if you are only recalling some workers that were laid off for furloughed, ensure your practice for determining who to recall does not discriminate against any group of employees. This is quite important, guys. Some of you are going to be pulling back just maybe half your staff in a particular role. Well, you’re saying, “Alright, I’m pulling back this role because of this.” Well, how are you making half the staff selection? It’s important to document as long as it’s for business reasons. You could say seniority, you could say skill based on last performance review. You can say anything but gender, don’t do gender, don’t do race, don’t do something that would wind up being that. If you’ve opened in new markets, and those markets are predominantly African American and your old markets are predominantly white. So you wind up opening your older stores first. And you bring back 60 or 100 employees, and they’re all white. And the 40 you don’t bring, they’re all black. That could be bad. Don’t do that. Okay. So just take a look. Take a minute to do a sanity check. Make sure what you’re doing doesn’t have a huge disparate impact. It’s just a can of worms you don’t need.

Okay. Next up. Think about your leave policies. So, know how FFCRA affects your previous policies. First of all, if you haven’t been dealing with FFCRA, it goes into effect for this whole year. Very important. So take a look at that. Consider implementing a new PTO or vacation rollover grace period, revised guidelines for usage, that kind of thing. Because people have taken a lot of time off, may have been paid, may have been unpaid, don’t know. If they used FFCRA, it didn’t count towards their PTO, and you may not be able to give people a whole heck of a lot of flexibility if they can work going forward. So your vacation benefits, that kind of thing. They may wind up having some rollover issues that they can’t, they don’t have time to use it. Your best people will be like, “Now I’m here every day, man.” But they have three weeks of PTO saved to use. Revise how you’re going to handle that, and now’s the time to make those changes. You can say, “Look. For 2020, for now, until June of next year, we’re not going to have your PTO expire, you can hang on to it. Maybe you want to do some if you’ve already done FFCRA rewards and do not reduce your prior rewards. But you may want to change the way things accrue. Maybe instead of being a flat rate, four hours every pay period, you work, maybe you want to go to some amount per hour you work, right? A 10th of an hour per hour you work, which would allow you to more fairly reward that for people who are working significantly more hours than others. You need to think about it if you haven’t already. Sadly, you need to implement or revise your bereavement leave policies. If there’s a lot of people, that could be done, and if so, we got to make sure our employees are taken care of. So think about your bereavement leave policies. And once you’ve got your policies in order, it’s totally worth putting them all into like a leave policy lists and redistributing those. Right? Just so they all know what’s going on. Make sure they have an understanding and appreciation for all the leave policies that would apply to them.

Next up. Work from home and child care policies. Over the last few weeks, months, people have just been flying by the seat of their pants, that’s okay. But it’s time to start updating the paperwork. So, if you’ve changed why people can work from home when they can work from home, whether you give people time off to take care of children under the FFCRA, what sort of things are you doing? Document it. Update your policies, primarily around work from home and child care. You also, speaking of the policies, want to update your travel policies in light of any new orders in your state, or new practices, kind of broadly in the workforce to keep employees and customers safe. So if you have a traveling staff, you got to think about how that’s going to go forward and go ahead and document it. 

Think about and this is a big one, rehire and reinstate provisions for your benefits policies. Most of you who furloughed people, kept them on your benefits. That’s outstanding. It’s hard to do from a compliance perspective, but most insurers have allowed that dance to happen. Everything’s going fine there. But, if you didn’t do that, and you laid people off and you bring them back, when does their PTO accrual reset? What’s the seniority policy here? If they were all for more than 13 weeks, does it reset? Are they a new employee? Or do you resume their old one? If you’re an ACA company and you’re using variable our tracking with a 12 month period, we may need to revise that. You may need to think about going down to a six month period, cover the last half of the year instead. Because no one’s going to qualify if they had two months off the whole year. There’s a lot of different things to think about in terms of your rehire and reinstate provisions for around benefits. And then you need to distribute all of those policies, right? So use people processes systems, put it in an email, whatever it is you need to do. Highly recommended. As people come back in, they get a chance to review all the policy changes. Take a minute, read them, here’s what’s going on, and have them sign a receipt. It’s basically a handbook update. In fact, it probably should be a handbook update, but you want to get a receipt that they understand these new policies. Okay, so that’s the policies and posting section. 

Next up is health and safety. There’s going to be some changes to how most of us operate on that. You need to have a policy around, and procedures around illness, cleaning, disinfecting, work, meetings, and travel. We talked about some of those above, but these are specifically around health. What are your expectations for educating employees on how to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at home and at work? There’s a CDC prevention recommendation, there are employer materials. Look, there’s a lot of talks right now about removing employer liability for COVID-19. If your employees catch it at work that has not happened yet, as of this recording, and it may not happen at all. It’s a tough pill to swallow for a good half of the country. So the long and short is, you need to be doing everything you need to spend a little bit of time at least, again, compliance as a spectrum to the best you can. Don’t put yourself out of work. Don’t spend all 40 hours talking about COVID-19 that week, but spend some time talking about how to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at work, and what you’re doing there because if nothing else, keep it from spreading more. But even more than that provides a little bit of help on a liability shield. If they’re going to come into a worksite make sure they understand what’s expected of them in the workplace. Do they need to wear a face mask or face covering? Will protective items and hand sanitizer be provided? By the way, that’s the law in Delaware, you must provide it if you’re open period. Are the workplace hours going to be different? Will you be taking employees’ temperatures each day when they arrive? Is teleworking or staggered shift work allowed, encouraged, required? That’s the question you got to answer.

You need to have a specific policy about employees who are currently ill or have contact with an ill family member that they must stay at home. If an employee becomes sick at work, you must send them home. This is important. State this in writing. It’s worth saying when people start coming back on. It’s going to reassure those who aren’t sick. They’re gonna be like, “Okay, it’s safe to come back.” If an employee inside your organization itself, if you can, and you should be able to, I mean, I know manufacturers who have managed to do this warehouse staff, promote safe social distancing, encourage employees to remain at least six feet away from each other. If they can do it at all, do it via email, message call, or video call rather than face to face, and to clean their computer equipment, desktop phones, and workstations often. One company has done a really cool thing. They have a little buzzer. They do it every I think it’s an hour and 20. And they’ve put a can of like Lysol and disinfectant wipes. They’re just like, “Hey, hour and 20 everybody gets up, wipe your stuff down. It’s kind of cool. It’s a little like there’s this practice in Japan’s total side note. And I cannot remember the word for it because it’s in Japanese. But they do calisthenics, like at work in the morning as a big office. It’s super cool. If you ever want to google it, Google like I don’t know, Japan office calisthenics. You’ll see some great videos. It was just like a sea of men and women in suits, like super nice dressed up doing like basic tie bow stuff. I don’t know, I think it’s great and I’ve always wanted to do it in my office we’re going to have a foot spa. My employees look at me like I’m crazy. But anyway, back to that. You can do that, you can make it fun. Get that done. Don’t forget if it’s the hourly effect. 

Okay. Discourage handshaking. This is another one in that health and safety thing. It’s worth mentioning, it’s really hard to break if you’re used to it, especially your sales team. Give them a heads up that you do not think handshaking is a good idea. Do your best not to do it. And take those recommendations from cleaning to washing your hands, social distancing put a couple of posters up at your workplace, put it in the bathrooms, put it outside the bathrooms, put it in the main areas. Just remind people by putting that up again, you’re going to help stop the spread of this disease. 

Okay. So those are our health and safety. We cover policies, procedures, health, and safety. Now, just a few broad best practices. In general, you have to be aware of the local COVID-19 health and other orders that are related to your business. I can’t keep up with the entire country, every city is different, counties are different, states are different. We’re keeping a list of states in our reference library, We got all kinds of info on there, including a state’s reference list. But this is really something you got to figure out, follow your mayor’s office, figure out what’s going on there because every city is different. And some of them are saying, “Look, you can have your store open but only at 25% or at 50%. Or in this industry, you can only have five people and you have to look at that. So figure out how that’s going to get checked. If you’re a grown-up company, that should be somebody’s child, the first thing every day. What’s the plan, what’s updated, make a little briefing packet for the executive team something like that, or the executive course can follow it themselves. 

Double-check whatever you’re doing with your cleaning company. If they’re up, make sure they’re up to date on current methods for safely renewing COVID-19 hazards. If you’re using a large company, you may want to call them and ask if they can do it. There are some really cool things like antibacterial bombs or antiviral bombs that you can do in your office every other night or something that’ll just take care of this. It’s like a misting system. Pretty cool. But if you’re using a gal Friday, you don’t have a dedicated office cleaner, whatever it is, you just need to think about how you know what their experience and provisions are related to this. In general, you need to communicate frequently and transparently with your employees. Provide timelines for recalling rehiring employees. You’re not bringing everybody back. What’s the plan there if you’re bringing everybody back? Provide returning employees with recall or offer letters. This is important, let them know, give it to them in writing, “As of this day you’re coming back.” Very important, it’s going to support stopping unemployment claims among other things. 

Train managers on dealing with employees that may face increased personal challenges during this time, such as bereavement loss, childcare, school cancellation challenges, financial stress, other dependent care, and support needs. While I meant it, mentioning it, check out your EAP program. If you offer benefits, your employee assistance program has counseling around all of those topics really well. You don’t have an EAP program, contact the benefits broker like us, we’d be happy to help you find one. A lot of times they can incorporate it into other benefits at a very low cost. Super cool. So you need an EAP program at this time. If you can think about how you can do whatever you used to do in a more flexible and remote way. I know that’s obvious, but I’m just going to say it however you did it before may not be the way you’re going to do it going forward. This is cool. Designate a workplace coordinator who will be responsible for COVID-19 issues and their impact at the workplace. It’s a great person to say, “Look, this is your COVID-19 person, they’re staying on top of stuff, they’re going to be the ones who keep an eye out. For if you see someone being sick, sneeze in and you’re worried to go talk to them. This is the person we’re going to make sure is super on top things at this work location. Giving a COVID-19 kind of coordinator will help you streamline this and think about it more in a process way. Develop a plan to operate if absenteeism spikes or if another shelter in place or stay at home order occurs in the future. 

Now that we’re getting back up, I want you guys to take a minute, think about if this all happens again. You need a plan to continue your central business functions. You need a flexible work schedule and leave policy you could pull in and think about cross-training. Think about. Do it. Do cross-training on performing essential business functions so that you have more flexibility in the future. You don’t have to keep a bunch of individuals who are the only people who don’t cross-train your central business functions. Also, while you’re at it, people are coming back, developing emergency communication plans, including a way to answer workers’ concerns. So not just a way for you to contact, but how are they going to contact. What’s the process for this internal back and forth? Highly recommended. What’s the emergency communication plan and communicate it to them. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, communicate your appreciation and welcome the employees back to work. I highly recommend anytime you’re communicating information, pure information, written materials make sense. But if you’re trying to communicate sentiment, it’s got to be video or in person. So take a minute if you’re trying to get this out to a lot of people without your iPhone, or your Android, which we prefer, whatever. Make a video and say, “Thank you all for being part of the team during this crazy last three months. We’re excited to launch out into this new world where we are going to grow and thrive. And it’s because of you, you’ve experienced great hardship, there’s more to come probably, but we want to be here for you and we appreciate you. Your actions over the last three months have helped us keep this place afloat. And now we want to grow together, make things great. Your actions over the next three months are going to help us do that. Thank you for coming back.” Something like that is gonna go a long way to motivate your employees. So communicate your appreciation and welcome your employees back to work.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Rhamy Alejeal. I’m the CEO of People Processes. And I want to thank you for tuning in, for listening. I hope you learn something. I hope you took away a nugget that’s going to be worthwhile to you. Please go to and subscribe. Download the checklist. It’s just two pages and checks them off as you go. Be super helpful for a quick internal review. Now it’s time for you to go out there. Have a great day and get your work done.

Download The Checklist HERE

About the author, Rhamy

Rhamy grew up watching and working with his mother and grandmother in the senior insurance market. This familiarity with the struggles faced by people trying to navigate the incredibly complicated and heavily regulated healthcare market led him to start Poplar Financial while working on his degree at the University of Memphis. After completing his MBA and Bachelors in Finance and Economics, Rhamy guided Poplar Financial through the disruptive opportunity that is the Affordable Care Act. Since then Poplar Financial has received numerous awards from major insurance carriers and has completed its fourth year in a row of doubling in size. Now his team focuses on the processes around human resources and specializes in providing companies with between 20 and 1000 employees with the payroll, benefits, and HR needs.

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