Creating a Plan For Employees Returning to Work During COVID-19

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, reopening plans are taking effect from coast to coast. If it’s time for you to start bringing employees back to work, you will need a cohesive plan that meets all federal, state, and local guidelines and is designed to maximize employee and customer safety. Here’s what to think about.

Long-term planning

Your overall business model may look very different than it did pre-pandemic. Before you start bringing your employees back, give some consideration to your long-term plans and how they may have changed:

• How does the economic downturn affect your industry?
• How can you streamline operations to become more agile?
• What does the business look like now, and what are your one-year and five-year projections?
• What lessons did you learn from the shutdown, and what changes do you need to implement now to make future disasters easier to bear?
• Are there workplace design issues to address in the long term, such as eliminating shared desks, automating doors and bathroom facilities, or directing pedestrian traffic to minimize crowding?

Legal considerations

Very few locales have reopened for business as usual. Depending on your industry, there may be state and/or local limits on how many people can be inside the facility at the same time. Masks and social distancing inside, and possibly even on the grounds, may be required. You might be required to submit an action plan to local authorities before you reopen. Carefully review all applicable guidelines.

Practical measures

Every workplace is different, and now is the time to take a critical look at every aspect of the worker, customer, and vendor experience. Things to consider include, but are not limited to:

• Building access: Is it monitored? Are people counted as they enter and exit? How will you control the number of people inside at once? How will you ensure that masks are worn?
• Social distancing: How will you keep people apart, not only at their workstations but also in meeting rooms, hallways, bathrooms, and elevators? Is there an employee cafeteria or break room? How will you make sure people don’t congregate there?
• Cleaning: Who will clean what? How often? Using which products? What high-touch items are present and how will you ensure that they are disinfected between users?
• Protocol training: What steps are in place to train workers on new protocols, from cleaning and personal hygiene to changes in shift times?
• Task re-training: How long were you closed? Do your employees need a refresher on how to perform their work, or on non-COVID workplace safety procedures?
• Mental health considerations: This has been a trying time for everyone, and your employees could experience anxiety or depression related to the pandemic as a whole or due to changing work conditions. Do you have anything in place to help support them through these challenges?

Bringing back employees at this time is challenging, but it can be done. Assess your business needs and your workers’ needs, and then make an action plan.

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