With constantly changing guidelines and increasing uncertainty, it can feel overwhelming for business owners as they prepare to return to work in what feels like a new world. How can businesses and their employees thrive in a changing world? What should a Business Continuity Plan look like? And what are the most up-to-date OSHA and CDC guidelines that your business needs to know?

The Fort Worth Chamber hosted Beth Watson, Chief Human Resources Officer at United Way of Tarrant County, Dr. Faye Cocchiara, Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Management at the University of Texas at Arlington College of Business, and Kathryn Mitchell, Owner and Principal Consultant at Why HR, LLC, at its second virtual Women’s Insight Network Roundtable. Each panelist handled one of these imperative topics that can give business owners the confidence to reopen their businesses and employees the security they need that their safety is being prioritized.

Understanding change and its effects

From Dr. Cocchiara’s personal experience, the way that higher education is being delivered has changed. Out of necessity, schools have pivoted to online learning, even for programs that previously did not offer that option.

“COVID has allowed us to make changes that we always thought about making, but were just afraid to make,” she adds. Additionally, she observes that school districts, including Fort Worth Independent School District, are giving parents and students a choice, both on safety and preference – how do you want your education delivered? “If we go back even five years, that’s incredible.”

On the idea of change: “We’ve done our due diligence and we’ve looked at our competition [other similar businesses], recognizing that some of the changes we had to make have been good for us.”

In regards to post-COVID changes, people range from worrisome, seeing them as burdens, or view many as unnecessary. Dr. Cocchiara encourages business owners to remain optimistic regarding these changes and the new opportunities they can offer. “I’m a forever optimist,” she says. “The way I view change is this: Have you ever been caught in a rainstorm? We prepare, we’re smart business people who look at the forecast and prepare for the rainstorm. Change is the rainstorm. How do we prepare? We need that protection until the change has subsided.”

She encourages people to also think about COVID-19’s business impact like a rainstorm. Ideas that businesses have implemented and ways that they have reimagined their processes can continue, and business owners may find that they prefer these procedures.

Lastly, Dr. Cocchiara encourages business owners and employees to be ‘futurists.’ “Think not of risk or fear of change, but of creating your own change, and letting everything else go to the wind. Our businesses can be a lot stronger, and we just won’t succumb to these things that happen to us. We can manage these things ourselves.”

Business Continuity

Business Continuity, says Watson, is about risk mitigation, engaging, continued risk services, and continued employment during a crisis without interruption. Pre-COVID, she says that most people understood the importance of Business Continuity, but they tended to think of it within the context of disasters such as fires, a tornado, or a power outage.

She encourages employers to ensure that they are hearing their employees’ voices, especially those affected by their organizations’ Business Continuity; frontline workers’ voices, the employees who deliver services and make adjustments, are especially essential.

Engaging employees in a world of change

To Watson, employee engagement is a make-or-break scenario for many organizations in terms of their ability to deliver, both now and in the future. Employees will remember how they were treated, as well as employee considerations during COVID. Although organizations may not feel this immediately, employees will find another place to work if they did not feel valued when the economy bounces back.

According to a survey conducted by Limeade, an employee experience software company, the single most overarching factor in employee turnover is organizational care. Watson encourages employers to look at their employees holistically: some are caring for children or other family members while working from home, in addition to dealing with technological and other issues, and to be flexible with hours and responsibilities as needed.

Government Regulations & Recommendations for workplace safety

Mitchell advises business owners to constantly check on OSHA and CDC guidelines and requirements, citing that they can easily change day-by-day. She recommends that individual businesses have a plan in place as soon as possible, to let employees know what new policies will entail, to get these policies in writing, and to encourage staff to take time off if they feel ill.

To learn more about OSHA and CDC’s guidelines for businesses and workplaces, visit the links below:

OSHA: Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

CDC: CDC Businesses and Workplaces Coronavirus information

Additional Resources

EEOC Coronavirus Guidance

Tarrant County COVID-19 Information

Tarrant County Executive Order regarding facemasks

Department of Homeland Security Business Continuity Template

Department of Homeland Security Continuity Toolkit

Family Assistance: American Red Cross

Free Virtual Support Group: Mesa Springs

Mental Fitness: Calm

Self-Care: Wholefully

UTA College of Business is the presenting sponsor for this event. Other sponsors include Baylor Scott and White, Elbit Systems of America, GM Financial, Hillwood, Simmons Bank, and Wells Fargo.

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