Let’s Get Back to Work – Returning to the Workplace after the COVID-19 Quarantine

Californians have been staying home since the statewide stay-at-home order issued on March 19, 2020. As our economy is starting to gradually re-open after the nationwide COVID-19 quarantine, employee health and safety has become a top priority for businesses.

Employee health and safety is the top priority for businesses starting to re-open after COVID-19 quarantine

Companies are bringing together their department leaders to develop plans for employees to return to work. At Blythe Global Advisors we have been busy advising our clients to ensure this return to work is done appropriately. Here are five important ways to make your workplace safer from the start.

  1. Preparation & Planning
    1. Create a plan to bring employees back to work. This may require modifying the layout of the workspace, moving workstations farther apart, altering access points, installing barriers or changing employee schedules. Consider staggering days or weeks in office and at home among team members.
    2. Continue to allow remote work where possible. Consider which employees can continue to work remotely by job, responsibilities and location. Look at facts such as seniority, performance or job classification to minimize risk of discrimination.
    3. Evaluate and update technology as needed to continue to support onsite and remote workforce.
  2. Implement Employee Safety Protocols
    1. Post instructions regarding best practices for proper hygiene, effective handwashing, social distancing, methods for cleaning surfaces and digital devices, and state and local posting requirements.
    2. Set up cleaning stations around the office with antiseptic cleaning wipes and gel.
    3. Decide whether or not to screen people before entering the workplace (e.g., temperature checks, screening questions).
    4. Evaluate mandatory or voluntary use of masks, gloves, and face shields.
    5. Implement cleaning and disinfection protocols for the janitorial team, consistent with CDC and OSHA guidance.
  3. Develop Company Policy Guidelines
    1. Review your sick leave policies and ask employees to stay home when they’re not feeling well.
    2. Establish rules governing when employees can return to work after recovering from COVID-19.
    3. Prepare to address requests from employees who refuse to return to work or ask to continue telework due to childcare, health or safety concerns.
    4. Engage in a dialogue and provide reasonable accommodations to employees who may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 because of underlying health conditions.
    5. Develop protocol for addressing employees with reported COVID-19 symptoms or diagnosis.
  4. Communication
    1. Create a clear employee communications plan about plans to reopen. Include a return to work process, new policies on sick leave and other paid and unpaid leave and your commitment to protecting employees and customers.
    2. Provide managers with a toolkit that includes employee return-to-work information, FAQs, updates on new policies and procedures and other information needed to support employees as they return to work.
    3. Communicate regularly with employees letting them know about the actions you’re taking to keep them safe.
  5. Going Back to Work
    1. Train employees on new policies including safety measures, protocols and rules.
    2. Review and update job descriptions to address changes in job duties and job functions.
    3. Impose appropriate limits on business travel.
    4. Impose appropriate limits on size of in-person meetings and proximity of seating.
    5. Work with human resources to prepare for potential ethics and compliance complaints from employees with concerns.

This checklist was compiled from various sources including regulatory guidance on returning to work. While this checklist is a good starting point, remember that each organization is unique, so modify your preparations accordingly.

If you would like to discuss the recommendations in this article or would like advice or assistance, please contact Marc Blythe at marc@blytheglobal.com or call 949-757-4180.