The Lamont administration's guidance on reopening offices after the pandemic shut down.

My business, just like so many others in Connecticut, has been operating with almost all of my employees working from home.  Some  would like the option of returning to our building, but only if the environment I can provide to them is perceived as safe, let alone actually safe. The reality is that without more complete guidance, as outlined in Reopen CT, from the Lamont Administration it is impossible to commit to my employees that they should feel safe when in my offices.

David Lewis

The gaps in the published guidelines can be summed up in two key areas. The first one – there must be more complete and specific direction given to each office building owner / manager on the safe administration of lobbies, elevators and most importantly bathrooms. These are spaces 100% controlled by the landlord, and yet the guidance, and specific requirements for safe operation of these spaces, is not complete and thorough in the REOPEN CT plan. I have now collected the guidelines issued by over 20 Connecticut buildings to their tenants, and every single one is different, making it clear that each are crafting their own versions specifically around vague guidance by the state, and with the intent of their own liability management vs. safety.

When it comes to bathrooms, there should be signage requirements, and even in some cases capacity limits. We have capacity limits tied to safe operation and social distancing for offices (50%). We have them for restaurants. We have them for every other type of space. We need them for the one area that is by far most likely to be the source of community spread in an office building – the bathroom. In Reopen CT the guidance talks about cleaning, but nothing about social distancing or capacity.

The second gap – there must be clearly communicated protocols for if/when someone who has been in an office building tests positive for COVID-19. As a business owner I need to be assured that if someone who has been present in my building tests positive, that I am immediately informed; that my employees are informed. The state is not committing to this, or even defining the protocols, and even indicating that no notification will occur. How is that logical, possible, or in line with the goal of making us want to leave the safety of our home offices?

This is not just my opinion or perspective. Since March my firm has been running free webinars on COVID-19 and its impact on the workplace, with over 1,000 business leaders from CT regularly attending these weekly events. We have fielded questions each week from our attendees, and the concerns about a safe reopening of office buildings and these specific issues and gaps are front of mind for most.

Why is this so difficult? Why is the administration unwilling or unable to provide just a little more critical detailed guidance? The public and the business community deserves action and responses; demands a more complete effort. If you want to engender confidence for those who work in offices and want or need to return that it is safe to do so, then you must implement guidelines that meet that goal. REOPEN CT fails…badly. The fix is simple. We’re waiting Governor Lamont.

David Lewis is CEO of Norwalk-based OperationsInc, the state’s largest HR consulting practice. 

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