November-December 2020

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12 PalletCentral • November-December 2020 A s businesses return to normal following a period of reduced activity caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, employers are starting to end furloughs and to rehire laid off workers. People who had been assigned reduced hours are returning to full time status. Those are all hopeful actions as COVID looms and threatens a winter resurgence with accompaning shutdowns. Yet, many employees will doubtless be eager to return to work as usual even as challenges to such remain. The first has to do with staff performance: Supervisors may need to deal effectively with employees who may not perform at their usual level of productivity. That condition might be due to a weariness about COVID, fear of contracting the illness, or a general uncertainty about the future. "Many people are still scared, and their fear is valid," says Bill Hagaman, CEO and Managing Partner of Withum, a management consultancy. "The risk of the virus impacting someone at any moment continues to be very real." Anxiety makes people see everything in the light of their fear – and fearful people often perform poorly. The energy that would normally go to their work goes instead toward worrying about the health and financial survival of their families and themselves. A second problem has to do with safety of the physical plant: Employers must institute procedures and modifications to ensure no one contracts the virus while at work. "As employers put in place their return to work programs they must address legal issues concerning the safety of employees, vendors, suppliers, clients, and customers," says Paul Evans, a partner in the Employment and Compensation Practice Group in Baker & McKenzie's New York office. The risks exist on numerous fronts. Employees may charge that the business is failing to provide a safe workplace as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or similar state laws. Workers who contract COVID-19 on the job may file workers compensation claims or lawsuits, although hard to prove. Stay Well It stands to reason that every business will need to take steps to keep everyone safe – and that starts with the physical plant. "The facility must be thoroughly cleaned," says Richard Avdoian, an employee development consultant in Metropolitan St. Louis. "Attention must be paid especially to the common areas, restrooms, chairs and desks. Sanitizing gels should be made available throughout." The business may need to modify some long- standing operating procedures. Equipment and workstations may need to be sanitized when one employee takes over from another. Conference room chairs might be removed so people can sit far enough from one another. Hallways might be turned into one-way corridors. A single serve machine might replace a group coffee maker. Making a productive workplace transition in the post-COVID world. By Phillip M. Perry WORKPLACE Back to Let's Get

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