Coronavirus (COVID-19), HR Management & Compliance

Preparing for Employees to Return to the Workplace

Whether your workplace has kept workers in person all along, has recently started welcoming employees back, or is still contemplating how to do so when the time is right, there are a lot of considerations when bringing employees together in a post-pandemic world.

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Let’s look at some things employers should do before bringing more people into the workplace:

  • Stock up well in advance on supplies like:
    • Hand sanitizer (ideally, one for every employee, with more on hand)
    • Soap
    • Disinfecting wipes and/or spray
    • Disposable masks and gloves
    • Face shields
    • Barriers between workstations if employees will be less than 6 feet apart
  • If using a coworking space or other area with space flexibility, consider pre-booking larger meeting areas to allow more space between employees.
  • Have touchless thermometers on hand for ensuring employees do not have a fever.
  • Adopt some form of screening process to ensure employees with symptoms do not come into the workplace.
  • Implement an increased cleaning schedule.
  • Make changes to work space layout if required to increase physical distancing and provide barriers between employee work spaces if needed.
  • Implement a deep cleaning of the work area before people return and after any possible infection.
  • Create and place signage and other communication so employees understand how to protect themselves and others.

There are also a lot of things that are not physical but still need to be managed in advance of employees’ return. These fall under the category of strategic planning. For example:

  • Plan for how employees will be screened for symptoms before returning to the workplace.
  • Plan for ideas around staggered or rotating scheduling.
  • Create policies for handling when an employee feels ill.
  • Create policies for notifying other employees if someone in the workplace is diagnosed with or has been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Find and disseminate information on how and where to get tested should the need arise.
  • Have a policy for determining which employees may be allowed to remain remote either temporarily or indefinitely.
  • Make changes to processes to minimize touch points for shared surfaces.
  • Make changes to processes so fewer people congregate in an area at the same time, such as staggered lunch periods.
  • Make plans for how to trace contacts and notify people of any type of virus exposure.
  • Create a communication plan for the reopening phases, including communication about the actions being taken to keep employees and clients safe.
  • Create policies for permissible business travel and events.
  • Ensure employees understand what paid leave options are available if they fall ill or if they need to care for an ill loved one.
  • Consider policy changes like new work hours, changes to work flexibility, changes to remote work rules, etc.

Preparing for these before you need them places you much further ahead if the need arises. Or, if you’re already allowing employees back, consider this list food for thought regarding additional measures that could be considered going forward.

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.