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Considerations For Reopening Physical Workplaces

Considerations For Reopening Physical Workplaces

Guest author – Mary Jo Fedy, National Enterprise Leader, KPMG in Canada

For many businesses large and small, the most pressing issue right now is how to safely return employees to the workplace.

This won’t be as simple as getting the all clear from government authorities and allowing employees, currently working from home, to come back to offices and other physical workplaces.

The question of how to reopen is complicated and nuanced. Just as no two businesses have had the exact same experience during this pandemic, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reopening.

What is clear, however, is the need for every business to develop a plan to mitigate the threat posed by COVID-19 and help avoid a future resurgence of the virus.

First and foremost, that means addressing the health risks to your people and customers and, in turn, to the health of your business.

It starts with understanding where you are today and where you need to go. Generally, we are seeing four distinct phases: Reaction, Resilience, Recovery and New Reality.

Many businesses have made it past the first stage of reacting to the crisis (Reaction) and have maintained business continuity by operating remotely (Resilience). As provinces ease restrictions, these businesses are now entering the crucial next stage of reopening and returning employees to the workplace (Recovery).

At KPMG, we have developed a Return to the Workplace guide for employers which identifies the key factors and considerations for a robust action plan for your business. The guide lays the foundation for a safe, orderly and effective reopening strategy, setting out specific actions and best practices.

Whether you operate a privately-held company, a family-owned business or an owner-managed enterprise, this guidance can be tailored to your unique situation. The goal is to provide practical tools, information and advice business leaders need to meet their responsibilities to their employees and customers and regain a sense of control.

Before developing and executing any plan, an effective approach gives careful consideration to these three areas:

  1. Leadership, governance and risk management
  2. Workplace preparation and management
  3. Employee and visitor health and safety

This approach also highlights the obligations that employers will need to consider before reopening. For example . . .

  • Is extending a work-from-home policy an option for some of your employees?
  • Is your organization meeting its health and safety duties and would a risk assessment identify the need for additional controls?
  • What are your legal obligations and risks as an employer?
  • What do facility managers and leaders need to do to prepare the workplace?
  • What protocols are in place to protect customers entering your premises?
  • Do you have the capabilities to screen, track and isolate infected employees?

The pandemic has had an indelible impact on workplaces of every kind, disrupting how and where work is conducted. As a new version of normal emerges, some of those changes will become permanent for businesses operating in this new reality.

Clearly, getting employees back to work will help our economy recover and begin to restore consumer confidence. At the same time, some employees may not be comfortable returning to physical workplaces. This underscores the importance of communicating openly and sharing information about enhanced safety protocols, while avoiding mental health risks.

We can assist you with how best to reopen and see your business through to recovery. Please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss how we can help.

Mary Jo Fedy is the National Enterprise Leader for KPMG in Canada. Mary Jo has over 30 years’ experience in public practice and has focused on serving privately held companies and owner managed businesses. As a KPMG Enterprise business adviser, Mary Jo provides pro-active, hands-on service to address her clients needs, which include financing, budgeting, strategic planning, attestation services, tax planning and tax compliance.

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