As the economy today continues reopening amidst Covid-19, businesses are faced with the task of figuring out how to successfully transition employees back into the office. And helping your employees return to work, safely and confidently, considering the current crisis is no easy task.
Because procedures that were once an afterthought, such as how the break room was cleaned, are now top of mind for everyone from entry-level employees to the C-suite.
The 2 key questions that you need to ask here before making this transition are:
- Organizational readiness – is my organization equipped to handle this transition at this point in time?
- Employee readiness – how ready are my employees to go back to the workplace?
Having the trust of your employees that the workplace is safe for them to return to is the key. So, help prepare your organization and workforce for this transition with an effective return-to-work strategy.
Now, let’s look into designing an effective return-to-work strategy to help you make this work-from-home to workplace transition a smooth and safe endeavor with zero compromises on the:
- Safety of your workforce and workplace
- Work Productivity
Key considerations for designing an effective return-to-work strategy
1. Develop an individualized and flexible return to work plan
Each company’s return-to-work plan will be unique. And different plans may be required based on location, local requirements, and function. So, it’s crucial to consider factors such as the
- location of your workplace
- The number of employees working in that location
- The ability to ensure proper social distancing within the workplace and
- Employee reliance on public transportation
Once you figure them out, the next critical step is to design a return to work plan that is sufficiently flexible to adapt to evolving recommendations and orders issued by your federal, state, and local governments.
2. Preparing the workplace for returning employees
One of the most important things to keep in mind when designing an effective return-to-work strategy is developing and implementing workplace controls to minimize exposure risks for employees and mitigating potential liability risks for the employer.
For this, you need to consult and continue to monitor, guidelines and recommendations issued by federal agencies and state and local municipalities – beginning with the guidance published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These guidelines talk about some of the key considerations for planning and preparing your workplace for bringing back employees. They include:
Implementing basic prevention measures
That is, educating your employees on preventive measures to reduce the risk of the COVID-19 spread. Also setting up practices to support good hygiene practice. This may include providing employees, customers, and workplace visitors with a place to wash their hands, establishing policies and practices for social distancing, and performing routine environmental cleaning and disinfection.
Implementing workplace controls:
This includes creating room for proper ventilation in your workplace, installing high-efficiency air filters, and establishing policies to limit the number of employees and visitors in the workplace at any given time. Also, reconfigure your office spaces to maintain proper social distancing and set up barriers such as partitions between workspaces. Not to forget – provide personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, and face shields to your employees.
Implementing procedures for the identification and isolation of employees suspected of contracting Covid-19
This is the most crucial measure of all. It’s important to conduct health screenings like body temperature screenings as a condition to enter the workplace. Also, encourage your employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. And develop policies for employees to report to the management in case they fall sick or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
3. Implementing a phased approach
To address the physical distancing concerns related to COVID-19, you may also opt to bring your employees back to the office in phases. For instance,
- The first phase could involve bringing back 25% of the workforce with physical distancing measures in place
- Then bringing in 50% in the second phase, followed by 75%
- And finally, bringing in the full workforce in the fourth phase
This approach will reduce the burden on your company and your cleaning crew in managing and performing routine office cleaning and disinfection work.
To further mitigate the risk of the COVID-19 spread, you could also physically separate teams within the office. And also implement a team-based daily or weekly rotation system in which certain teams are in the office while other teams work remotely.
To add on, if your employees rely heavily on public transportation, you may want to consider providing commuter benefits to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure while commuting to and from the workplace.
No business has been immune to Covid-19. As we start planning the return to the workplace, you must ensure that your employee re-boarding experience meets your organizational strategic goals. That is, ensure that your greatest asset – your people,
- Know what to do
- Feel supported, and
- Most importantly, feel safe
In this post, we have outlined immediate actions for you to consider as you prepare and implement an effective return-to on-work in a space that’s safe for your workforce.