May 3, 2020

The business of getting back to business: 6 steps for reopening during COVID-19


As we get ready to go back to work, businesses are facing new challenges and realities that are complicated by uncertainties about the progression of COVID-19. We know that it’s not just a matter of returning to normal.

Continued social distancing, stringent cleaning protocols, monitoring and testing of employees and customers will likely be part of our work routines for some time to come. For those in the drug and alcohol screening industry, we face the added challenge of doing work that generally requires close contact and the handling of bodily fluids. We also will likely see an increase in demand for our services because of the expected spike in substance use disorders historically tied to major crises.

Here are some steps to consider as you prepare to go back to work:

  1. Have a Plan – Consider your workplace policies and procedures. What will your cleaning schedule look like? When should employees stay home, or come to work? How should customers enter your offices? Are you going to be taking temperatures regularly? These are just some of the questions you should have answered before opening your doors. Develop a plan and educate your staff about it. Having clear behavioral expectations for both employees and customers is key.

    To help develop your plan, review the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s COVID-19 webpage for resources, guidance and standards for workplaces in the new normal.

    Review NDASA’s list of resources here for additional information on reopening plans. Plus, don’t miss our May 21 webinar specifically focused on our industry and drug testing during COVID-19.

    Keep in mind, with all the uncertainties, businesses will need to be prepared to change course on a dime, and plans may need to be updated or rewritten multiple times.
  2. Consider a Phased Opening – If it is feasible for your company, consider slowly dipping your toe in. You could start opening in shifts, bringing only essential employees into the workplace. Or, you could continue ramping up mobile collections while inviting customers to your offices by appointment only. Perhaps, keep your common areas closed for the time being and limit the number of people entering your workplace. Ease restrictions over time, based on how comfortable and safe you and your employees feel.
  3. Put People First – Try to remember that many of your employees have experienced trauma. Understand that individuals may have experienced loss, financial devastation, or are struggling with childcare issues. Show care and compassion. Proactively seek feedback from employees and give them a voice. Consider mental health resources. (Take a look at the National Alliance for Mental Illness website for helpful information.) Revisit your business’s remote working policies to allow for flexibility so that workers can take care of themselves and their families.
  4. Re-think Workspaces – Consider re-arranging the furniture and creating a more flexible workplace to limit physical contact and allow for social distancing. Posting signage to remind both employees and customers about your business’ social distancing policies may be helpful.
  5. Develop a Cleaning Program – Establish comprehensive cleaning and decontaminating policies and procedures. This is especially critical for industries like ours where workers could face an increased risk to exposure. Having a cleaning plan in place and educating both your employees and customers will go a long way to building trust in your commitment to maintain a safe workplace for all. Revise your plan, as needed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has posted an invaluable guide for cleaning and disinfecting that can help you develop your policies and procedures. Also review the list of disinfectants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for COVID-19 cleaning.
  6. Prep Personal Protective Equipment – Make sure you have a supply of the PPE that your employees will need, depending on their work roles including masks, gloves, face shields, goggles, gowns, etc. Educate them about how to correctly wear and use their equipment. Consider what kind of equipment you may want to require your customers to use and having it available.

As we emerge from the current pandemic, the world of work will face some significant changes that address biological, physical, and emotional challenges. Just as we made changes post 9/11, we will adapt and respond to new challenges. We know that our members will approach this time with thoughtfulness and planning and show the resilience that small business owners are known for.