(May 7, 2020) As we continue to move into May, our communities step down their orders and open many business operations. On Monday, the City of Branson lessened restrictions and are using the State of Missouri Guidelines.
On Thursday, the City of Springfield and Greene County further reduced the restrictions allowing gathering at churches, theaters, funerals, museums, bars and taprooms to open/continue operations and increase their gathering size from 15 to 25, subject to physical distancing and cleaning protocols.
Ollis/Akers/Arney has also developed our plan and timeline for opening our facilities. We have decided to share an overview of our unabridged plan, with explanations for the tough decisions. We want to be transparent and provide information and resources to others who may be developing their plan, rather than send you some PR fluff.
Fortunately, we were preparing to provide our staff with Flexible Work Arrangements prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. This allowed us to deploy our staff to work from home, providing uninterrupted service to our clients. We’ve become proficient at hosting virtual meetings, presentations and signing documents using technology. We’ve also enhanced how we provide information, guidance and resources by further developing our digital platform. Lastly, we will begin to offer more payment options, such as Credit Cards and Electronic Funds Transfer. Although COVID-19 has been painful and disruptive, it’s enabled us to rapidly enhance our digital service platform and provide additional service options. Change is often instigated or accelerated in times of crisis and uncertainty. “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
Although we’ve certainly improved our ability to do many things with technology, we’re anxious to provide in person service, advice and recommendations. We have developed a plan to do this while being safe, prudent and effective. The following plan and timeline will be closely monitored, using local and regional data from our local health departments and state to determine if we need to adjust.
We plan on phasing our staffs return to our offices. The first (voluntary) phase will return on May 11. We’ll have some of our staff working Monday/Tuesday and some on Thursday/Friday. All of our staff continues to work full-time to serve our clients, whether it’s from home or one of our physical offices.
On June 1, another group of our staff will return to our offices. On this date, we plan to be open to the public and begin to hold more in person meetings. We will continue to use virtual meetings and our enhanced digital ability indefinitely. We’ll work with you to determine the most appropriate way to communicate and meet.
On July 6, all of our staff plan to return to our offices and will be available for in person meetings and/or virtually. This phased in approach will allow our staff to secure childcare and other resources while still serving our clients without interruption. We have purchased additional technology for our staff to serve you from their home or our office indefinitely – we’re ready, regardless of most circumstances or another unforeseen event.
We’ve implemented and updated our policies for our employees to expand sick leave through the Families First Coronavirus Responsive Act (FFCRA) and our Short-Term Disability Plan. This allows our staff up to 90 days paid leave for COVID-19 Illness. Our staff will have no negative impact of using PTO for COVID-19 symptoms or illness, incenting them to stay home if ill or under the weather.
We’ve established sanitization stations at each entry and removed chairs in our breakrooms and meeting rooms. This reminds folks to wash their hands and provide appropriate physical distancing.
Our cleaning and sanitization schedule has increased with enhanced efforts from our cleaning crews. In addition, we’re asking our staff to clean their workspaces with supplied cleaning and disinfectant supplies. This is an “all hands” on deck effort with new cleaning supplies, equipment and protocols.
Now for a couple of difficult and controversial areas. We don’t suggest that these decisions are best for all companies but do recommend that a conscious decision be made. There are many different perspectives on the wearing of masks. It’s been debated medically, politically and publicly. Even our leadership team had differing perspectives on requiring our staff to wear masks. After much research and discussion, here’s our plan:
- Masks are required to be worn in all common areas of the building, including if you have someone in your private office.
- Masks are recommended but optional if you are in your workspace or office alone.
- Masks are optional but required at the request of our clients or the public when outside of the office.
- Virtual meetings are recommended internally and externally; however, we are happy to meet in person.
We feel this approach balances safety with individual rights and preferences. I know we all look forward to the day when this is no longer an issue.
Many people enjoy traveling, especially to visit clients, family and friends. Our country was founded on the ability to freely travel and move. We also understand that many COVID-19 cases were contracted while traveling and contact tracing becomes more difficult if people frequently travel.
Ollis/Akers/Arney has implemented a travel policy for our staff:
- NO business travel beyond a 50-mile radius is allowed without management approval. We’ve essentially eliminated business travel until further notice.
- Personal Travel outside a 50-mile radius must be reported to HR and evaluated for self-quarantine upon return. We’re not saying our staff can’t travel but if they do, they’ll likely be self-quarantined for 14 days or more and working from home.
As you can imagine, this was not a popular decision. Many of our staff has family outside of a 50-mile radius. We certainly hope this will be for a limited time.
This communication is not intended to advocate or recommend certain policies or procedures for every business. It is also not an all-inclusive plan. We recommend that every business and family develop their own plan and strategy.
We’ve included a checklist of things to consider but also wanted to provide you with an overview of our plan and some controversial and difficult decisions we addressed.
We are ready, able and willing to assist you in your Return to Work Plan. We’re also here to serve your needs, write insurance programs, manage risk and develop HR policies/procedures.
Here’s to a safe, successful and effective re-opening for our business communities.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Ollis/Akers/Arney Insurance & Business Advisors
OllisAkersArney.com | 417-881-8333