Bringing Employees Safely Back to the Office During COVID-19

How To Safely Bring Employees Back to the Office During COVID-19

COVID-19 has altered our lives on both personal and professional levels. Shelter-in-place orders, masks, only essential stores open, working from home and hospitalizations of loved ones. Many states have begun reopening the economy in phases. Governors are following the guidelines set-forth by the President.

Is your company planning on bringing employees back to the office?

If the answer is yes, here are best practices that your employer should follow to ensure the safety of their employees in the office during COVID-19.

Reception Area

If your company has a reception area, reduce the available seating. Make sure seating is six feet apart. Consider providing guests with masks and sanitizers once they enter your office space. Require all employees to wear masks.

Elevators and Stairs

Reach out to building management for a list of procedures they will be implementing to ensure the safety of all employees and visitors. For example, in the lobby of the building, will there be social distancing circles for those waiting to enter the elevators? If you are located on a floor that needs to be reached by elevator, will there be signage visible? What will be included in the signage?

Kitchen

As with reception, limit seating and make sure each is six feet apart. Provide disposable cups, plates and utensils for employees. We recommend signage which should include the protocols for using the kitchen. For example, depending on the size of the kitchen, only X employees are permitted at one time.

Restrooms

If your company has a restroom that can accommodate more than one person at a time, limit it to one person. This can be an easy fix for employers. One solution is placing a lock put on the inside of the door. You can also place hand sanitizer stations outside and inside of the restrooms. Signage should be visible in the bathroom to ensure all employees practice good hygiene.

Employee Workstations

Reconfigure employee workstations to ensure social distancing measures are in place. For example, if employees work in connected cubicles, consider putting in dividers/partitions.

Conference Rooms

Make sure to limit the conference room occupancies at one time. Remove extra seating to follow social distancing rules.

Shared Office Equipment/Overall Cleaning/Hygiene

There should be safety protocols in place that includes sanitizing any shared equipment like printers and copiers. Place hand sanitizing stations throughout the office. Companies should schedule regular and frequent cleaning protocol.

Screening Employees

Implementing screening procedures for employees is vital. Screening recommendations include taking the temperature of employees before they enter the office. Temperature may be an indication that a person has the virus. For example, any employees with a temperature of at least 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit will not be permitted to work. There are different types of equipment companies can consider for temperature checks. Some options available include individual thermometers, laser handheld no-touch thermometers and infra-red thermal scanning monitors.

Before permitting employees to come back to work in the office during COVID-19, provide them with a questionnaire to fill out. Questions pertaining to whether they were out of the country, near someone with COVID-19 etc.

There are 3rd party companies that provide screening services, which include implementation of processes, managing and maintaining the screening of employees. Organizations should keep in mind what information will be held and for how long on each employee. Be sure your organization is compliant with privacy laws including HIPAA.

Review the processes and procedures and discuss them with employees before they come back to the office to work. The goal is to make employees feel safe.

How comfortable do employees feel in going back to work in the office?

Qualtrics, an experience management company, conducted a study of 2,000 Americans (from Boomers to Gen Z) last month. The survey asked people what would make them feel comfortable returning to the workplace, dining out and going out to places in general.

  • 2 out of 3 people (65%) said they would not feel comfortable returning to the office
  • 25% of respondents reported that they would be going back to work in May
  • 28% think they may be going back to work at the end of June
  • 48% think they won’t be going back to the office until August or later

What would make employees feel more comfortable in returning to work at the office?

  • 63% want the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to say it’s safe. Half of them say their state officials saying the same would help
  • 47% say a treatment and 45% say a vaccine would ease their mind
  • 38% want employers to require all employees who have traveled to self-quarantine for 14 days before being allowed back in the office

This pandemic has transformed the world and our everyday lives. Not everyone will be returning to the office during COVID-19. According to our Remote Work: A New Advantage Report, it is estimated that 30%-40% of workers will continue to work remotely full-time after the pandemic ends. Is your company considering keeping workers remote? If yes, do you have questions about how to enable your remote workforce? We can help with our Remote Work Reimbursement program that provides reimbursement rates for mobile devices, internet and home office expenses unique to each employee’s geographic area. Contact us today to learn more!

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The Author

Dawn Romvari

Read more by Dawn Romvari

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