Employees Back At Work – Now What?

Most of you either cut employees hours or furloughed/laid off workers. Going forward, you will be bringing some staff back and adjusting to the “new normal”. There have been many webinars as well as a multitude of written information to help you through the pandemic as the owner of a business, but have you given any thought about your employees? How they will feel coming back to work? We need to keep your employees safe, healthy and productive.

Your employees may come back to work dealing with stress, anxiety and depression as they try to balance work and home. They will have concerns about their children, mothers, fathers or grandparents becoming infected with the virus. This is where you as the business owner is so important. You need to remain calm and communicate with them about any changes that will be made.

Making the workplace safe is very important. Hopefully, during the shutdown, you have done some deep cleaning. All of your equipment should have been wiped down and disinfected. Review your housekeeping procedures. If you cleaned workspaces and common areas once a week, you need to step that up to at least 2 times a week, if not daily in the beginning. Make sure you have disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer easily available at everyone’s workstation. Their workstations should be wiped down before use and at the end of the day. Remind your staff to use both regularly. Also remind them to wash their hands. You might consider posting signs as reminders. Stock up on these items plus hand soap, paper towels, tissues and face masks. Some dry cleaners have installed plexiglass shields to protect your employees as well as the customer. Your employees will take comfort in the fact you are looking out for them. Be aware of the restrictions you are required to follow in your individual State and follow them.

Communicate, communicate, communicate! This is extremely important. Positive communication is the key. This is critical to the morale of your company. Paying attention to employee concerns is important. Take time to talk to your employees and LISTEN to how they respond. Listening is necessary for good communication. As the Atlanta Small Business Network states, “Empathetic, compassionate listening allows for the kind of safe space required to maintain a positive work environment right now.”

You may have decided to add routes to your business or decided to add wash and fold to your services. Explain to your employees why you are doing this. Share with them what you have learned from other dry cleaners and how you feel it will help grow your business. Ask them if they have any ideas. They might suggest something that you had not thought of.

Getting back on track could be quite a task. There will be slow times with idle time to fill. Have you cross trained your employees? Now is the time to do this. DLI has many training videos available that you can have your employees view. DLI also has a Facebook page and they have been having live demonstrations on Facebook. Recently, there was pressing and spotting. It could not hurt to have all your employees watch. It could educate your counter staff, for example, what it takes to get the spots out. Also, now is the time to complete the sexual harassment training. Call your worker compensation insurance company and determine how to accomplish this.

Now is the time to update your policies and procedures. Surely you have a handbook outlining your business practices. If you don’t have one, shame on you. There are many places you can order a stock manual and basically just fill in the blanks with your policies and procedures. Get one now and start it while you have the time. For those of you who have one, now is the time to update your sick leave policy to include information about COVID-19. You will have to decide what changes, if any you need to make. Review all your procedures and update as necessary. You will probably be surprised what has changed since you last looked at it.

I hope this has helped. Word has it that 25% of the dry cleaners will not survive this pandemic. If you are just sitting there waiting for customers to come in, you may be part of that number. You need to get out of your chair and hit the ground running! Stay healthy!