As employers across the country begin planning a return to the worksite, it’s important to have a strategy to help make it a safe and easy transition for everyone. Employees may be feeling anxious about leaving their work-from-home routine but understanding how their company is working to keep them safe may help ease their concerns.
While each worksite is different, consider these seven priorities to help you plan a safer and healthier experience:
- Confirm your community is ready
The spread of COVID-19 is affecting communities in different ways, so check with federal and state agencies for guidelines to understand your community’s readiness to reopen. Refer to appropriate resources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as your state and county health department websites for details about business closures or openings.
Some key indicators that your community may be ready include:
— A continued 10- to 14-day average decrease in new cases
— Hospitals’ ability to safely treat patients without crisis standards of care
Creating a committee dedicated to applying these guidelines and analyzing data may help determine if your company is ready to return to work.
- Assess your workspace readiness
You may need to change the work environment, like modifying floor plans to avoid large gatherings or preparing proper protective measures. Physical workspaces should be cleaned and stocked with hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes, and you may consider placing sanitizer stations throughout the building.
Consider displaying signs throughout the building reminding employees of CDC guidelines for physical distancing and frequent hand washing.
- Prepare employees for their return
Determine how many employees each worksite can accommodate to maintain optimal physical distancing. Consider staggering the timing of your employee’s return. Do some positions need to be in the office more than others? You may consider having leaders or those in critical functions return to work prior to other employees to test policies and ensure the environment is safe for others to return. Whatever approach you decide, make sure the communication is clear.
You may also consider implementing CDC-based protocols for screening employees, including decisions on whether to require temperature checks and/or symptom screening.
- Communicate the plan to employees
Recognize that your employees will have varying degrees of comfort, so clearly communicating your commitment to safety, health, education and training will be important. Take time to lay out what to expect, what will change, when employees should stay home and other crucial information. Details may include education on workplace safety, physical distancing and the use of face masks.
Consider encouraging employees to get in the habit of daily symptom checking, so that it becomes a habit by the time they return to the worksite.
- Begin the return-to-worksite education
Identify employees who are high-risk and allow them to stay home until it’s safe to return. Employees are not required to disclose what makes them high-risk. Based on CDC guidelines, adults over 65 and those with serious underlying medical conditions might be at risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
For those who do plan to return to the office, consider offering training on safer work practices. A welcome kit for employees could consist of new policies, washable face masks and hand sanitizer.
- Monitor your progress
Continued communication about prevention and safety with employees is critical. Conducting frequent audits for building sanitation and distancing practices may help you spot changes that should be made.
Create a plan to support employees, if a worksite outbreak occurs. You may need to change your strategy, such as adjusting seating arrangements, use of common spaces or shifting employees back home. Make sure to contact your state or county health department, if an outbreak does occur.
- Support physical and mental health needs
A comprehensive return-to-work plan should include virtual care solutions for both physical and mental health needs. Employers can help by building awareness and encouraging the use of helpful resources, such as offering self-help apps, emotional support lines or virtual behavioral health access.
Remember, everyone may have different experiences transitioning back to the office. But clear and caring communication may help ease their worries for a successful return to work.
View text version of the Employer Tips Brochure.