COVID-19: Business Policies and Best Practices

by Ashley Turrell, membership & analytics director, MAPP

When the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP) asked plastics executives to rank their top priorities for the year in January 2020, no one could have anticipated the pandemic and the quick shift in business that would take place. As business leaders pivoted on their initial plans and strategies, they leaned on one another to fill in both the practical aspect of what needed to be done and to learn new ways to adapt – and help their workers adapt – to what is being called the “new normal.”

Practical and tactical

To assist, MAPP generated a series of benchmarking compilations for industry leaders to refer to as they began to develop new plans. The series includes more than 500 pages of policies, procedures, communication examples and resources to help plastics companies navigate the various changing aspects of their business.

For example, in the initial outreach, the final product – COVID-19 Policies & Procedures – included examples of how business executives were communicating internally with their staff, sharing information with customers, changing policies for visitors and contractors, and full infectious disease action plans to be deployed for scenarios just like the one manufacturing businesses are facing today.

As companies moved to remote work or were deemed essential and needed employees to still be present for production, two additional compilations were developed: Essential Worker Employee Transit Letters and Policies for Remote Workers/Working from Home. The most substantial policies explain expectations, work hours, frequency of contact and communication with supervisors, and a comprehensive checklist for IT security.

And finally, more leaders need to make tough decisions about workplace safety and employment levels. To start, executives shared how their companies would address an employee who tests positive to COVID-19. The most in-depth policies not only address an employee who tests positive, but also show tiered approaches to various situations. These include a positive employee test, an employee with symptoms, an employee who came in contact with someone with COVID-19, a sick spouse or family member, an at-risk employee or an employee who recently traveled to an affected area.

While some companies are ramping up, others must make workforce reductions. In sharing policies for employee layoffs, furlough and recalls, company-specific plans varied from “gut feel” to a detailed outline. The most robust policies included formulas and standardized instructions on making decisions on workforce reduction as well as how companies prioritize employees and guidelines for when employees can anticipate being called back. Additionally, companies included detailed outlines for furloughed employees that explained how the employee can contact the local government to receive assistance ASAP.

Best practices

Beyond checklists and procedures, plastics leaders also shared best practices in communication, morale building and leadership during this trying time. With nearly every company executive reporting that keeping morale high is a key concern, here are a few examples of how plastics leaders are engaging with their employees keep spirits high, all while maintaining operations and keeping employees safe:

1. Supporting Local Businesses and Communities

Companies such as All-Plastics in Texas and Polyflex in Michigan are helping both their employees and their local communities. As their teams continue to show up each day for work, the employees are lacking in team and group events. To help, companies are working with local food vendors to get individually wrapped lunches and snacks delivered for employees for safe meal delivery. Instead of the standard boxes of pizza, for instance, two slices at a time are boxed together for a grab-and-go feast instead. Companies using this tactic report that employees appreciate the gesture, and their local vendors are more than happy to accommodate.

2. Videos and Messages from the Team

Communication is king right now, but with so much required distancing and employees working from their homes, getting the same message to everyone now is even harder than before. To that end, companies like Sussex IM had its company leadership record encouraging video messages and updates that can be shared with all employees. At Sussex IM, the company has many languages spoken on its plant floor, so to make sure all employees heard the message, the CEO recorded a video in regard to being an essential business, the importance of their work and the importance of staying safe right now and then had it translated into four additional languages. This video played throughout all the lunchrooms and during every shift.

Other organizations are bringing in not just leadership, but all employees. One company had employees at home record a short video message of gratitude to those still coming into the facility, and employees in the facility recorded short video messages to those working from home, sharing how they were doing and how much they are looking forward to being together again. These videos were compiled and shared so everyone could see and hear the gratitude and the community throughout the company, no matter where they were.

3. Homemade Masks for All Employees

To maintain safety and increase the comfort levels of employees, plastics companies are asking their employees to wear masks during their shifts. However, masks have become harder to come by, so some companies are taking on this challenge themselves. At Crescent Industries, the human resources director reached out to a seamstress, but the individual was only able to make about half of the masks the company needed in a timely manner. So, along with the seamstress’ contribution, the human resources director, the CEO and his wife took it upon themselves to sew the remaining masks. These handmade masks, which can be washed and reused, were distributed to each employee in the organization.

4. Gifts, Recognition and Team Bonding

More than ever, companies are looking for creative ways to celebrate and acknowledge their employees. Organizations like Westec Plastics have hosted spirit weeks for employees to help unite those coming into the facility and add fun and levity back into the workplace. These spirit weeks included jersey day, flannel shirt day and Hawaiian shirt day. Companies also are giving bonuses for perfect attendance during this time or offering loyalty bonuses. Others are giving out small gifts, such as gift cards to local restaurants and sweet treats. Finally, some also are bringing their virtual team into the bonding activities by hosting virtual coffee breaks or water cooler chats – just a short time for everyone to get on a video call and catch up, allowing all team members to feel connected during this global crisis.

No matter where they fall during this pandemic, every company is getting creative and leaning on their community and their peers like never before.

More benchmarking compilations and virtual best practice sharing: www.mappinc.com