Return to Work: Post-COVID

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Returning to Work after Covid

Re-opening your business after weeks (or months) off is an overwhelming challenge. Let’s help you wrap your head around what needs to be done. Your business will be thinking of things such as covering off on federal, state and local laws to social distancing guidelines and facilities cleaning and sanitation. This whole process can be overwhelming, let’s help you break down some important steps to take to helping your employees return safely to the office.

Where to start?

Form a Back to Work Committee of leaders, managers and some valued staff that can help advocate and make decisions for your company.

Make a checklist. What are all the Return to Work things that may come up? Here’s where to start.

  • Form a Back to Work committee of leaders, managers and some valued staff that can help advocate and make decisions for your company.
  • Create training to review new safety protocols and guidelines for employees and roll those out with a return to work guide (provided to them before they return) and return to work on boarding their first day back to the office.
  • Assign an advocate who can confidentially listen and help those who have questions, complaints, anxiety, or any other issues returning to work.
  • Provide employees with handouts documenting new guidelines and protocols and procedures.
  • What mental health services might employee’s need dealing with PTSD from Covid? Other challenges? Anxiety?
  • Remind employees about how to contact their employee assistance program if they are anxious about the return to work.
  • Share all resources around their telehealth options and benefits, as many may not have used them prior to COVID.
  • Make disinfectant wipes, sanitizer and cleaning supplies readily available throughout the office.
  • Ensure thorough cleaning of shared surfaces throughout the facility, including break rooms, conference rooms and restrooms, at least once every 24 hours.
  • Encourage employees to wear masks and gloves.
  • Train employees on frequent hand washing, properly covering coughs and sneezes, and refraining from touching their faces.
  • Post internal signage that can be used to alert or remind employees about guidelines around social distancing.

What are some more ways as a company, we can encourage safety and great Social Distancing practices?

  • Allow breaks
  • Stagger work shifts. Figure out who can be in the office when, based on needs, responsibilities and space.
  • No more than a few people in a break room or bathroom at a time
  • Provide sanitizing products for employees to use at their desks
  • Provide and require masks and gloves if needed
  • Limit size of live meetings to no more than 10 people
  • Conduct temperature or wellness checks
  • Create a master contract tracing list, of where people are sitting and if someone gets sick, they must stay home, and report it to HR
  • Offer a variety of leave options, for those who may need to be out due to COVID

What about Vendors and Clients coming to the space/office?

  • Post signs on Visitor protocol
  • Limit amount of visitors/clients onsite
  • Develop a protocol for how to deal with them and post it everywhere, as well as reaching out via e-mail

Don’t forget to consider these things below when bringing back furloughed or laid off employees too:

  • Job and Pay Issues
  • Determine the date for recalling furloughed employees or rehiring employees that were laid off under the CARES Act.
  • Issue a letter of intent offering a return to work for everyone.
  • Review state and local laws to determine if:
  • A new direct deposit form must be created
  • Prior paid sick leave accruals must be reinstated
  • Paid family leave contributions must be resumed
  • Provide employee handbook and any other new hire forms for employee to review and acknowledge
  • Determine if an employee needs an updated or new Form I-9 if they were furloughed or terminated and now rehired.
  • Benefits – Consult benefits providers for guidance on offering benefits to any employee that elected COBRA and review health benefits and company retirement plans to determine if any modifications are needed due to the break in service.

Reopening the office will require rethinking the daily experience for all employees. It will feel different to them and to you! Setting clear protocols for how everything in the office will operate will be crucial to managing expectations for employees. You can’t think of every single factor that could arise, so encourage employees to use good judgment and to share ideas and encounters when they lack guidance. Regularly update your policies and protocols to make sure the use of the office is happening with the utmost regard to safety

What are some other ideas that could help keep everyone safe and comfortable in the office when back?

  • Encourage meetings to happen via phone/video whenever possible (even in the office)
  • Monitor and enforce new policies and protocols for safely working in the office
  • Consider building access and redesignate certain entrances as exit only (in order to promote a one-way traffic flow)
  • Gather feedback based on employee inputs and observed behavior in the office
  • Declutter spaces throughout the office and reconfigure furniture in order to make cleaning easier.
  • Implement a clean desk policy and empower employees with the supplies to wipe surfaces down each day before the start or end their day

Remember that this new way of working will evolve and you will need to think how your employees get to and from the office as well.

  • Evaluate how employees commute – do they take public transit?

Keep communicating with employees. Make sure you put together a schedule for constant updates and adjust your protocols as needed based on feedback from your teams.

  • Provide them weekly updates on staying healthy, tips for self care, different ways of staying in touch, so they know you care when they are at home or at work.
  • For those still working at home, establish a way to remind managers to stay in touch with those employees as well and include them in updates.

It’s a brave new world for employers and employees. The key is to keep communicating with your employees and help them feel comfortable and safe as they return to the office.

If you need some help bringing your employees back to the office, Work Friendly is here for you. We are currently offering Return To Work Liaison Services to alleviate the stress and time consumption of implementing a RTW Strategy and acting as a neutral resource for your team. Reach out to us at [email protected] and we can help!

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