As IT service firms, in my case as an MSP firm, we have to come up with messaging and actions that will give our clients the confidence to allow us back into their offices. This is not a problem unique to IT firms, every service business needs to have a plan and convey that plan to its customers. What is unique to service businesses is that in addition to assuring our clients that we will come in healthy and safe, we also need that assurance from them before we can send our people in. Just today, I received an advertisement from a local appliance repair business letting me know that they are open for business, what they are doing to protect their employees, and what my obligations are if I want to hire them. All service industry businesses will be making policies to protect customers and employees. Here are some key points included in the ad from the appliance business:
- 1. Clean the appliance and have an uncluttered area six feet around the appliance.
- 2. No children or pets anywhere near the appliance or technician.
- 3. No one in the home with temperature, sick, or in quarantine.
- 4. No one in home coughing or sneezing.
- 5. Customer to remain 12 feet from the technician during the repair.
- 6. Have a clean and available area for the technician to wash hands.
Every business will need to come up with a plan to protect customers and employees. Your local area most likely has regulations in place that will make your plan unique to you. In Michigan, as in most states, these are changing rapidly and coming down via executive order. Your state or local government will have a running list of those executive orders. For example, in Michigan, this week there was a significant reopening of stores but also a requirement to wear protective masks while in public. Previously, mask-wearing was a suggestion. Now it isn’t.
Things are changing day by day as our medical researchers discover new things about the virus, have new theories, new ideas, and those are adjusted with new information. What seemed like a sure thing before turns out not to be. That’s how science will eventually come up with the answer, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need a plan to protect customers and employees. We do need a plan and we’ll have to make it with the information that we have and be ready to change the plan as needed. The plan must be flexible.
To do nothing will create potential liability for the business. I suspect that employers are going to get health plan requirements from their insurers very soon so we may as well be ready for it when that happens. Employees have a right to be safe at work. Customers have a right to feel safe when you provide your services to their business. We have to find the balance to meet both of these obligations lest we meet a lawyer sometime in the future.
I will leave it up to you to come up with the safety standards that you will require to protect your employees and customers and to convey those to them.
You will want to consult with your advisers before making any decisions. Consider these to be all the words that mean I’m not a lawyer, accountant, adviser of any type and you should seek their advice and not take mine. Go forth and do your own thing. I don’t recommend copying what I’m about to show you. I’m just offering my plan as a point of reference and suggestion that you go forth and create your own plan to protect customers and employees.
How we will protect our clients
We have to come up with some messaging to convey to our clients that we care about our employees and theirs. Our messaging will be to let them know what our procedures are going to be and what our expectations are for them.
- We will continue to perform as much work as possible remotely.
- Clients will provide a clean and healthy space for our staff to work in.
- Any equipment that our technician will come into contact with should be sanitized by the client before the technician’s arrival. Including but not limited to computers and peripherals, phones, copiers, cameras, alarm, time clock, etc.
- All solid services should be clean and sanitized such as desks, chairs, counters, door handles, bathrooms, etc.
- Unmasked and ungloved staff should remain more than six feet distant.
- Everyone should be free of symptoms of COVID-19 or flu and not be running a fever.
- Our staff will adhere to a specific health and safety regimen.
- Our staff will take and report their temperature at the start of the day
- They will clean and sanitize their computer equipment, tools, and computer bags that they might carry into your office.
- Wear disposable protective gloves while in your office.
- Wear a protective mask while in your office.
- Never work in your office for more than four hours nor a total of four hours across all clients that they visit during the workday.
- Not work in areas where social distancing is not possible.
- Not gather in groups.
- Not attend meetings in person.
In addition to conveying to them that message, we also need to document that we are actually doing it. Everything requires documentation because if you don’t document it, then it didn’t happen. The items that we’ve decided need documentation are the start of the day health and safety checks. For that, we’ve decided to use our Microsoft 365 tools to create an app. Using these tools, we can create an app without writing any code. Our app will be a simple-to-fill-in form.
Make a health and safety check app
What we’re going to dive into now is a way to cause our employees to verify that they are complying with the new policies. We need each employee to verify each day that they are healthy and equipped for safety before going onsite. To do that, we’ll use Microsoft Forms. This form will be available via the web or their mobile phone. Data collected will be stored in Microsoft 365.
The form starts very simply. It asks for body temperature and whether or not anyone in the household has COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms. From this point the form branches depending on their answer.
If they say “yes” to the symptoms question, then question No. 3 appears. Question 3 asks them for details about the symptoms.
If they say “no,” then the form continues with a question of whether or not the tech will be visiting client offices today.
If the tech says, “yes” that they will be visiting clients today, then a series of questions are added to the form. If they answer “no,” then the form ends.
The acceptable answer to all of these questions is “yes,” but we’ve added an “other” field in case the need arises to record a comment on the question. If you’d like to try out this form please click here.
Evaluating the answers
Forms collect the answers into a spreadsheet by default. In this case, we have decided that since the purpose of this form is to verify the information and remind our techs of these new corporate policies, having the data in Excel will be sufficient.
Forms also offer the ability to view the results natively. I find the Excel sheet easier to read and a better documentation tool but the choice is yours.
Since rules and regulations are fluctuating daily, one of the strong suits of this solution is its flexibility. As the creator of the form, I can make changes to the questions and they are live immediately. This gives me the flexibility to collect the information I need without having to start over each time.
The ability of employees to complete the form on the mobile phone is also a big advantage. An employee can place the form on the home screen of their phone.
With a paper form, you have to worry about collecting and storing it, whether all employees have turned it in, etc. With a web-only form, you have to worry about whether they are at their computer or not but with a mobile solution like this, there is less worry. Everyone has a phone in their pocket these days.
We have some obligations that we never imagined but we also have the tools to make them manageable.
Stay safe and well everyone.
Featured image: Pixabay