Just when we thought we could all safely return to the workplace, the coronavirus resurged across the nation, leaving America’s small businesses in various stages of reopening.

Although none of us know when the country will truly be open for business, in its guide Navigating the Way Forward: A Guide to Getting Back to the Workplace, ADP reminds business owners they need to develop a plan for navigating the next steps forward and managing their businesses, customers, and employees.

The sooner you create a workable plan that satisfies everyone, the quicker you can hit the ground running once you get back to work.

But realistically, you can’t wave a magic wand on day one and make everything perfect. It’s going to be challenging. And there aren’t one-size-fits-all solutions since a lot depends on your state and local guidelines and the industry you’re in.

To help you figure out the best workforce management solutions for your business, I talked to Jim McGeady, Sr. Director Product Marketing at ADP.

First, McGeady suggests you may need to adjust your mindset since so much is unknown. You need to be agile and ready to adapt to changing circumstances, such as fluctuating employee availability and customer behavior. A key goal should be to make sure everyone is comfortable. And McGeady says, “A lot of the changes the coronavirus ‘forced’ us to adopt, could stick around post COVID-19.” For example, McGeady says many companies that went remote temporarily, or even terminated leases, may decide “they don’t need the real estate” and switch to a permanent virtual operation.

“Changes in the workplace,” says McGeady, “may mean jobs have changed, and you may need to revisit worker classifications. Formerly exempt employees may now be eligible to collect overtime if their duties have changed.”

Returning to Work

McGeady says many small businesses may need to take a “phased approach” when returning to the workplace. Your goal—to create a safe and secure workplace while ensuring business continuity—is of paramount importance. Determine how you will handle the physical aspects, like social distancing, and the emotional ones.

McGeady identifies a number of key considerations:

  • Testing guidelines
    • Will you require employees to get tested before they come back to work?
    • Will you provide testing?
  • In-person meetings?
    • Will you allow in-person meetings at the office?
    • Will you limit the number of people who can attend? Set a time limit?
    • Will you restrict visitors from coming to your offices?
  • Safety
    • Will you require masks to be worn at all times while in the office? (Many states already have this requirement.)
    • Depending on the type of business you own, are there any other personal protective equipment (PPE) or clothing requirements?
    • Will you be stricter about people not coming to work if they are sick?
    • How can these policies be enforced consistently?
  • Attendance
    • It’s essential to establish new guidelines for taking personal time off or a leave, if necessary. Flexibility goes a long way here to improve employee loyalty. Due to circumstances they can’t control (school closings, for example), employees may face last-minutes issues (like childcare) that prevent them from coming to work.
    • Will you introduce a flextime policy? A work-at-home option?
    • Can you stagger employee working hours, so the office is not full all day?

When it comes to managing the work and your workforce on a daily basis, there are many factors to consider to maximize your productivity. McGeady says you may need to revisit your timekeeping methods and rules and optimize employee schedules by conducting a self-assessment:

  • What is your current workforce management process?
  • What are the key activities, and who performs them?
  • Which existing technologies are in use and can more automation help?

Then, he adds, consider these factors when creating your schedules:

  • Who is willing to return to work?
  • Who and how many need to return to work?
  • Are customers willing and able to come back?

Does it seem like you can improve your workforce management processes? ADP has solutions to help establish and operationalize many best practices. Their advice:

Use touchless and mobile solutions to collect time data. Implement technology to bring timecards online, so they can be collected and approved more easily. Consider tracking absences and leaves online, so that record keeping is more thorough and consistent.

  • Leverage online Schedules so they are more visible, and easier to manage, especially now that employee and customer conditions are changing by the day.

And gain insight into potential attendance and overtime issues, and make better decisions with reporting and analytics.

You can find a return to work checklist on ADP’s SPARK website.

Whether you’re ready to go back to work in a few weeks or several months, start developing your back-to-work plan now.

In part three of our three-part series, we’ll focus on business continuity and how to plan for uncertainty moving forward.

In partnership with ADP.

Workplace reopening stock photo by Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock