10 Tips for a Safe Return to the Workplace
By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
There’s a lot of fear and trepidation about reopening workplaces. Nevertheless, many businesses need to bring employees back or face the prospect that they might never open their doors again. The best solution is to reopen with emphasis on a safe return to the workplace.
Many professional organizations have already issued guidelines on returning to work. The common theme is protecting employees from COVID-19 exposure through social distancing, face masks, and office sanitization. These efforts are paramount to help employees return to work safely.
Instead of adding to the already-prolific amount of rules out there about safely returning to the workplace, we’ve the top 10 best tips. Use these as the jump-off point as you bring employees back in-house.
- Institute a pre-screening policy. The best way to lessen the chances of coronavirus spread in the workplace is to encourage pre-screening. Employees with body aches, a fever above 100 degrees, or other symptoms should stay home. If symptoms persist, advise them to get tested and arrange a work-from-home schedule, if possible.
- Evaluate your floor plan. Identify areas prone to heavy traffic and congregation, as well as workspaces where employees may be in close proximity. Adjust the floor plan to accommodate social distancing guidelines and promote safer interactions. In some cases, this may mean reimagining the workplace in a new format. Make adjustments with health and safety in mind.
- Create and share social distancing policies. Institute new policies to help avoid employee contact and make these policies clear to all employees. Examples include new room occupancy levels, use of shared facilities, and interaction with other employees. Make it easy to follow these policies—put up signage and encourage leaders to set the example.
- Review workplace sanitization standards. Gauge your current janitorial schedule and decide to increase it or add new sanitization services. Then, post guidance for what employees can do to keep facilities clean in their day-to-day interactions with them. Consider everything from surface disinfecting to air purification, and let employees know what steps you’ve taken to sanitize the environment.
- Phase-in employees and groups. Don’t rush your entire workforce back all at once. Stagger the return by department or employee group, if possible. Set occupancy goals and monitor the social climate in your office to determine when to welcome the next wave of employees back. Start with employees who need to be in-house to work effectively and phase-in mission-critical people first, as well as those with telecommuting barriers.
- Require face masks. Face masks and face protection should be a core standard of your return to work policy. Masks are the easiest way for employees to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Beyond instituting a mask policy, take the time to educate employees on how to properly wear a mask and how to handle them (disposable vs. cloth).
- Hold an all-hands meeting. Employees need guidance and assurance as they come back to work. Managers need to give it to them. Encourage team leaders to hold an all-hands meeting with their groups to discuss new policies, field questions, and gauge the mood and morale of the workforce. Schedule regular company-wide meetings for updates and policy changes.
- Create a contact tracing strategy. COVID-19 has shown how resilient and contagious a pandemic can be. If the worst happens and your workplace is home to a confirmed case, you need a way to alert others who may have been exposed. Develop a contact tracing practice that protects your workforce, so you can encourage employees to get tested and stem any further potential transmission.
- Post hygiene reminders. A little reminder can go a long way. Put up signage in strategic areas throughout your workplace to remind employees of hygienic best practices and to encourage good habit formation. Get them to wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, wipe down work areas, and avoid sharing objects.
- Be flexible and accommodating. The coronavirus pandemic is an evolving situation, which means your business needs to be flexible. Listen to employees and address situations proactively. If an employee lives in an immunocompromised household, consider extending their work-from-home option. If in-house employees want partitions put up, make it happen. Accommodation will lead to appreciation.
Follow these 10 tips to create a safer workplace and confident employees. Continue to stick with them for as long as COVID-19 remains a concern, and take the time to remind employees that your workplace is a safer one so long as everyone is mindful of these practices.
Keep reading: How to Use Workplace Software for Social Distancing