Back To Business: Returning Safely To The Office

With the Capital District moving into Phase 2, many businesses can start opening their doors and allow staff back into the office. For Creatacor, after nearly three months away, opening our own doors presented a lot of unique challenges.

Thanks to our dedicated ‘back to business’ team, Creatacor returned to the office with a full set of policies in place. With our design, planning, and fabrication capabilities, we not only put our own plan swiftly into action, but are also able to help others looking to come back to their workplaces. Find more about our Back to Business initiative here.

James Mallek, Technical Detailer and Shop Safety Coordinator helped spearhead Creatacor’s new operating procedures to ensure returning staff was safe, comfortable, and working within the state’s recommended guidelines.

After the first full week back in the office, we had James offer some insight into the entire process.

Creatacor - James Mallek

Q & A with James:

How did you become  involved with creating the SOP (standard operating procedure) for Creatacor returning to work? 

As the shop safety coordinator, I have experience writing up health and safety SOPs for our fabrication department. I was able to work closely with Eileen Williams [Human Resources] and Linda Casimano [CFO], who I’ve worked with in the past for our safety inspections.

What were the first steps in creating the SOP for Creatacor to return to our office?

As every company and service has different priorities and potential interactions with people and between workers, the necessary regulations are all different. Guidelines of best practices were suggested by the Department of Health and the CDC and there were a few executive orders from New York State. However, there was a lot of nuance to it all, as there were actually very few laws or specific regulations that everyone must adhere to legally. We had to decipher what guidelines would best suit our means of work. Our biggest hurdle with official guidance was finding a source that met the needs of a mixed use facility like us.

Our first steps were essentially to gather information.

  1. Determine what safety measures were required by local authorities
  2. What safety measures could and should be deployed given our company’s risk of exposure
  3. Walkthrough the facility with a particular eye towards social distancing and exposure risk reduction

What was the best resource for information to help structure our protocols?

When we started, the best source was other businesses sending us examples of their procedures. Near the end of our process, New York State released a template that was thorough and well-organized. We used it as a way to double-check our own work.

What was the most challenging part of the process? Did anything surprise you?

There were a few different challenges with creating our ‘back to business’ process.

One of the larger obstacles was time. Generally, when working on a big project, we work on a schedule with a deadline. In this case, there was no specific timeline and it was difficult to finalize everything in time to share with the staff before we returned to the office.

It also took time to phrase the signage appropriately. Every sign required some reflection—is this the best way to phrase what I’m actually trying to say? Two things need to be in agreement: what does the sign say and what is the response to the sign? Working with the design team, we wanted to create signage that spoke to Creatacor’s branding that could potentially use some level of humor. We wanted to make sure that the signage A. didn’t scare people, but B. showed the protocols are intended to be followed and gives the reassurance your employer is taking these regulations seriously.

Creatacor Back To Business Signage

One of the most challenging parts was trying to make sure we had addressed each area of our operation. We had the goal to minimize touch points throughout the office, but it’s a lot easier to come up with a policy for non-crucial items such as the microwave vs. the plan for all of the tools in fabrication.

Creatacor Back To Business Signage

How long did it take to feel like we had a solid plan in place?

After I joined Linda and Eileen on the SOP, which they had begun before the PPP loan, it took us about a week to get to a place where we were fine tuning language rather than writing/researching new sections.

How do you feel the first week went?

It feels as though it went really smoothly.  Creating the A/B schedule (50% staff on alternating days) helped make our protocols easier to put into practice. Creatacor has the benefit of plenty of physical space between everyone’s working area, which ensures employees are able to work at a safe distance. We’ve really been able to cut down on the ideal situations for how the disease can be communicated.

Creatacor Back To Business Taking Temperatures

Do you think there are any details we’re still trying to figure out? Any additional thoughts going forward?

My grandfather was the damage control officer on a ship in World War Two. One of the things he liked to say was never give an order you know won’t be followed. Of course I can say ‘this is the safest thing you could do,’ but if it can’t be reasonably put into practice, it will be just another line item that people may ignore. While our plan continues to evolve, it’s crucial to find the balance between safest practices that will be followed that also create as few disruptions to workflow as possible.

I want to speak with more of the staff, gauge their reactions and get their feedback, so we can address their concerns. Some of the biggest questions I think everyone will face centers around compliance rate. How do we track sanitation? How often are touch points actively disinfected by users? This is something I would like to track in an organized way. I think most people are pretty conscientious about it, but for now we’re working on the honor system.