Texas economy

Houston businesses prepare to return to business after Abbott reopens Texas economy

Thousands of employees working from home over the past few weeks will likely return to work as early as Friday after Texas Governor Greg Abbott said some businesses could reopen after more than a month of stay-at-home orders. have closed.

Companies are preparing for the return of their employees by distancing offices, buying masks and hand sanitizer and modifying the standard working day so that some employees start early and others start late so that fewer people are on. the workplace at all times to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Law firm AZA Law in Houston ordered the installation of plastic shields around the reception area, managing partner John Zavitsanos said. Human Resources is working on a new lunch schedule to reduce congestion in the dining room and has hired a special cleaning company to spray keyboards, chairs and desk tops three times a week with super disinfectant.

Zavitsanos said he expects all 100 attorneys and administrative workers to be back in the office on Monday, May 4, unless an employee or family member is sick — or government officials extend home work order. He said he wanted to do his part to put spending back into the economy.

“I want them to drive and I want them to burn gasoline,” he said. “I want them to stop and buy their morning coffee.”

The stay-at-home orders, which were first issued here around mid-March, aimed to close all but essential businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, in a bid to reduce coronavirus infections before they don’t overwhelm the health care system. The shutdowns have hit a range of industries and businesses and put some 26 million Americans out of work, including more than 1.3 million Texans.

Fifty-four percent of U.S. employers said they would adjust work hours to limit the number of employees in the office at any one time, according to an employer survey by human resources consulting firm Mercer. Forty-three percent of employers said they would allow employees to continue working from home.

The Greater Houston Partnership, the business-funded economic development group, has no immediate plans to bring its 85 employees back to the office. All are working remotely and it will be like this for several more weeks, spokesman AJ Mistretta said.

NRG Energy, one of the largest generators and sellers of electricity in Texas, plans to keep employees working remotely until May 29, spokeswoman Pat Hammond said.

Many companies are looking to regulators to prepare for the return of employees. Although the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not issued specific coronavirus standards for workplace safety, the agency has suggested employers limit infection by encouraging frequent washing of hands, providing boxes of tissues and discouraging workers from using other people’s desks, phones and computers. and other equipment.

Many companies have focused on creating at least six feet of distance between employees, customers and visitors to meet social distancing standards. Some limit the number of people who can occupy an office by alternating the days employees are present and discouraging physical contact. The nudge has replaced the handshake.

But what about job interviews?

Prior to the spread of the coronavirus, Houston’s recruiting agency, Murray Resources, interviewed job applicants in person, unless they were from out of town. But since early March, the recruitment agency which places engineers, accountants and other technical, industrial and professional workers in energy and other industries has interviewed all 450 job applicants via the Zoom website.

Video interviews have been an effective substitute for in-person interviews because they always provide an idea of ​​a candidate’s professionalism, enthusiasm and ability to communicate effectively, said chief executive Keith Wolf.

Website interviews are also easier to schedule and coordinate, Wolf said. A candidate can hop on a Zoom call right after work and still have dinner with family. Or they may take the call during their lunch break, where it would usually not be practical to drive back and forth for an interview, depending on the distance.

“But you miss some of the niceties that you get in person,” Wolf said, “like their ability to maintain good eye contact.” And give a firm handshake.

“COVID-19 in 60”: Houston coronavirus news in one minute Video: Houston Chronicle

Investigators pay attention to social cues from applicants who demonstrate composure, confidence and get along well with others. That’s how they treat the receptionist. Or how they react if someone interrupts the meeting, Wolf said. It’s harder, he said, to do on a Zoom call.

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