Business strategist discusses reopening, worker safety

Local News

(WEHT) — According to a new Qualtrics poll, two out of three Americans are uncomfortable with returning to the workplace as more states start to reopening their economies.

The reopening of businesses has raised questions on how they will follow social distancing guidelines.

Eyewitness News talked with business strategist Mark Fenner about the new poll and how companies can keep their workers safe on the job.


Brandon Bartlett: Mark Thanks for joining us tonight. A recent poll found that 66% of Americans do not want to return to their workplace 63% said that they want assurance from the CDC, that it’s safe to return to work. Those are some pretty large numbers. What do you think about that? And why do you think it is like that?

Mark Fenner: Well, I think people are still scared and nervous. You know, there’s a lot of news that’s still talking about growing cases and what have you. And so I think in the short term, companies have got to do a great job putting their employees at ease, putting the precautions in place, letting them see that they’ve done everything they can do to keep them safe. And then don’t bring back the people that don’t want to come back start with the people who do want to come back and then work into it over the next four to six weeks.

Brandon Bartlett: in some states are even saying that those who refuse to return to work may not get their unemployment benefits. Why is that?

Mark Fenner: Well, I think that’s what they’re saying right now. I think some of those are gonna be loosened. I think they’re just having to kind of work through it right now. But but I do think at some point, and again, I think this is going to be a four to six week process. But at some point, you know, companies have got to serve their customers and those that want to come to work need to come to work, and then those that are not going to get comfortable at some point, those organizations are going to have to make a difficult decision.

Brandon Bartlett: And companies are making some tough choices right now. How are companies changing the way that business is done inside of the workplace?

Mark Fenner: Well, I think there’s social distancing. I mean, they’re out there doing a ton of cleaning and what have you, I’ve got a client that started a company called COVID defense products, who’s who’s selling the acrylic separators between desks to help, you know, keep germ movement down to a minimum and, and then you know, a lot of my clients are also doing a phased approach. So they’re either doing A-B teams, on a team one day b team on the other, I’ve got a client that did a survey and anybody that’s not comfortable and coming back can continue to work from home and those that want to come back are coming into the office, and they’re doing a phased approach hoping by the middle of June. They have everybody back, you know, kind of back to whatever this new normal looks like.

Brandon Bartlett: Well, in your opinion, what is the best way to reopen and protect employees?

Mark Fenner: Well, I think that strategy is a good one, you know, talk to your employees, Here’s the thing, the decisions that are made during this pandemic are either going to strengthen you or weaken you as a leader. And so listen to your people. I mean, the number one job of a leader is to take care of your people. So listen to your people understand their concerns, put a plan together, that’s for the greater good of society greater good for your employees and the good for you as a business owner, whatever business you’re in and work into it over a phased approach. Don’t try to just jump all in at once phase into it as my recommendation.

Brandon Bartlett: Should bosses order their employees to come back to work or in your opinion, should they give them the option from working from home a little longer?

Mark Fenner: Well, I like the option of working from home a little bit longer. If they can, I mean, if you’re in the restaurant business, that’s not an option. If you’re in the restaurant business, I would first go out and say who wants to come back to work? most restaurants are opening at limited capacity anyway, so you don’t need everybody. So start with those that are eager to get back in that want to come to work those that are nervous because either for themselves or for relatives, let them phase themselves in and think about a phased approach over the next four to six weeks.

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