Preparing to open your workplace in the COVID-19 environment is a complicated subject. Expensive, too. Some guidance for keeping your workers and customers safe is available from OSHA and the CDC, but none of it includes guidance for budgeting for all those extra costs. It’s up to you as a business owner to figure it out.
Although federal workplace guidance for COVID-19 doesn’t address budgeting, it can be used as a tool to think through all factors to consider for opening your workplace safely. Identifying the costs that you will need to consider is a good starting point to develop a COVID-19 workplace budget. OSHA and CDC guidance spells out four categories that business owners need to consider to safely open their workplace the COVID-19 environment:
- Health and Safety Policies
Establishing policies and procedures might not sound like it should be a budgeted expense, but it really is. Not only do you have to decide workplace rules about personal hygiene (e.g., hand washing), distancing to prevent infection, and cleaning the workplace; you also need signage, floor markers and other methods to communicate the policies you have implemented to protect your workers and customers.
- Health Resources
Most workplaces do not commonly spend much of their budgets on worker health. In the COVID-19 environment, almost all businesses will need to add expenses for items and services they never considered before, like personal protection equipment, testing to identify infected employees, special cleaning services, and extra supplies for cleaning and disinfecting. These added expenses could be part of your budget for a long time.
- Human Resource Issues
New or augmented rules may be needed to support workers and help them feel safe in your workplace. Managing worker needs during a pandemic does not absolve employers from following privacy and nondiscrimination protections. Topics that employers should address include identifying and protecting at-risk employees, informing employees of possible workplace exposure, and protecting employee confidentiality.
- Operational Impacts
Costs to operate your business safely will definitely go up, it’s just a question of how much. Physical workplace modifications to achieve social distancing is an obvious cost. You may also need to consider regulatory compliance and legal issues, as well as the risk of legal liability for employee illness or death. You could need to budget for legal or regulatory expertise for input. And don’t forget to factor in the reduced productivity that is bound to occur due to the COVID-19 environment.
Preparing to open your workplace in the COVID-19 environment is complicated and expensive. Federal guidance does not address how to budget for all the extra costs to keep your workplace safe, but you can use it to identify the factors and costs to develop your COVID-19 workplace budget.