Following the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, companies and millions of workers resorted to working from home, which was an entirely new experience for many. As the curve flattens, businesses and offices are gradually reopening worldwide. However, employers should develop a detailed return to work plan that prioritizes the safety of their employees. Below are five things that employers should abide by as their employees return to the physical workplace.
1Review and Abide by Local and State Guidelines
Different state and local authorities issued several measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. Therefore, before reopening your workplace, ensure that you review and abide by local and state provisions. For instance, some states have already lifted the stay-at-home orders while others haven’t. Besides, even if your state has lifted these restrictions, most have maintained strict health protocols and guidelines that promote community safety.
Even though some guidelines may seem overly restrictive, they keep your business safe. Fortunately, you can check these protocols from the department of workforce service of your state. Most states established a COVID-specific webpage that outlines everything you should know before reopening.
Note that you should observe local and state guidelines at the minimum. Therefore, find ways of implementing higher-level regulations in your workplace that maximize the safety of your workforce.
2Sanitize and Establish Sanitary Practices
Before reopening your workplace, ensure that you thoroughly sanitize the entire area. Practically, even if the offices were closed during the period, some employees may have passed by occasionally for work-related reasons. Therefore, don’t assume that your workplace is a virus-free zone.
Sanitizing is probably the easiest and an effective way of protecting your employees from harm, which is your ethical and legal duty as an employer. You should also establish continuous sanitization measures in your breakroom, communal gaming consoles, and other social places. Also, post clear sanitization instructions all through your workplace.
Provide the necessary sanitization supplies, personal protective equipment, and include sanitization requirements in your return to work policy. While this may seem simple, employees can easily forget and slip back to their old habits.
3Institute Social Distancing Protocols
Social distancing is one of the popularly used measures that helped curb the spread of the virus. Therefore, establish social distancing measures that suit your workplace environment or abide by industry-specific guidelines provided by authorities. For instance, retail businesses were advised to encourage their customers to maintain a 1.5-meters distance when queuing. Restaurants also had specified state, county, and city guidelines.
Sports and entertainment sectors had special rules guiding the number of people and social distancing rules set as per a household instead of individuals. There was also a determined infection window period for high-risk persons. Landlords of buildings with multi-tenant properties were also advised to enforce rules that protect every tenant’s visitors and employees.
For instance, commercial buildings with elevators were expected to formulate capacity rules and other tiered return to work policies for every tenant in the building. Social distancing guidelines should also be posted all over the workplace as a reminder and caution employees from congregating and shaking hands.
4Formulate a Symptom Checker
Coronavirus was highly contagious because of its lengthy asymptomatic period. Therefore, while you may be happy that your workers are finally reporting to the office, they may not be aware of their interactions with a positive patient. This increases the risk of exposing others to the virus.
To protect your employees, develop a self-assessment kit that employees can use to determine if they can safely return to the office. This assessment should be done every time an employee plans to visit the workplace. Apart from asking workers if they have experienced indicative symptoms or tested positive for the virus, your symptom checker should evaluate if the employee has potential exposure.
Use this checker to determine employees who are fit to return to the workplace. However, note that employees may have privacy concerns depending on the information collected. Therefore, enforce several privacy policies, especially when informing employees who should stay at home or be cleared to report to work.
5Share Return to Work Policies with Your Employees
Return to work policies won’t be effective if you don’t inform your employees. For instance, your symptom checker won’t be fruitful if your employees cannot access or use it appropriately. Similarly, some decisions shouldn’t be made abruptly, as they may interfere with employee rights.
Therefore, communicate to your employees all your return to work, work from home, family and medical leave policies, and other COVID-related issues.
Employees are undoubtedly on the frontline in ensuring that your business resumes normal operations. This might be challenging, especially as most workers had already adjusted to working from home. Similarly, the majority, especially those with high-risk family members, have anxiety about returning to work. Therefore, take all the proactive steps to ensure that you protect them from the virus.