As metro area businesses prepare to reopen in some form or open up further with stay-at-home orders expiring in the coming days and weeks, a group of civic organizations advises businesses to take that process slowly and be adaptable.

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas City Area Development Council, the Mid-America Regional Council and the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City released a “Safe Return KC Guide” Wednesday to give businesses a roadmap or recommendations beyond what local governments and health departments provide.

“It’s a plan to get back to the workplace,” said Scott Hall, chamber vice president. “It’s not just about returning to work. It’s kind of a best-practices guide.”

The groups’ plan comes down to five fundamentals: learn, listen, communicate, evaluate and prepare.

• Learn the most up-to-date public health policies and pertinent recommendations to form your own business plan.

• Listen to confidential employee and customer feedback about their comfort in returning to the workplace, possibly including virtual meetings with employees and a questionnaire to help identify vulnerable individuals.

• Communicate plans with the workforce and customers to help ease anxiety.

• Evaluate government guidelines and industry-specific guidance be prepared to adapt policies, given that COVID-19 will likely be present in some way for several more months.

• Prepare for reopening with all necessary cleaning and sanitation supplies and information for best practices.

Tim Cowden, president/CEO of the KCADC, said it’s especially important to be transparent and communicate with employees, as best practices “will be different from one business to another.”

Joe Reardon, Kansas City Chamber CEO/president, said he foresees virtual meetings and work communication becoming more normal even as the pandemic eases.

“I think there will be a trend to have a flexible work environment,” he said.

Even as businesses return, they should at first be limited on employee numbers, not hold in-person group meetings and discourage having any shared materials, the groups advise. Any return to a regular workplace should happen in stages.

David Warm, executive director of MARC, said while testing and contact tracing are not at the most ideal stage now in the metro area, they are building, and, he said, “We’ve gotten this far because there’s been a high level of compliance.”

No matter when a business reopens, Warm said, they should do so “cautiously and carefully.”

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