At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies encouraged or required their employees to work remotely to help stop the spread of the virus.
As the pandemic continues, many business leaders understand that this “new normal” is here to stay, and for some employees, working remotely is a challenge. Managers and leaders must look for a way to allow workers back into the office again while prioritizing employee health and maintaining compliance with local regulations.
How do you return to the office as safely as possible, while maintaining a productive and enjoyable work environment for employees? As business leaders and HR professionals develop their back to work strategies, they must keep a few key things in mind.
The Safety Considerations of Returning to Work
There are several important factors to consider before determining whether or not bringing your workforce back to the office is safe. According to SAFER (Safe Actions for Employee Returns), the following criteria should be considered:
- The level of decontamination necessary for your office space. This includes things like cleaning all surfaces, air vents, common areas, and the removal of shared objects like kitchen utensils.
- The maximum capacity possible for your office while employees are maintaining advised social distancing.
- Any physical modifications to the building, like replacing switches with motion sensors to decrease touchpoints.
- The availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for employees to wear to minimize risk exposure.
- The availability of pre-check assessments and readiness audits conducted before reintroducing employees.
Policies and Procedures to Keep Everyone Protected
Determining whether or not your office can comply with necessary safety procedures isn’t the only step to safely return to work. Bringing employees back to the office during COVID-19 is not as simple as flipping a light switch. There are still some steps you’ll need to take to make sure that the workplace is as safe as possible.
At a bare minimum, you’ll want to consider a phased approach—meaning that employees can return in structured groups. Consider those employees (and their support staff) who need to be in the office to operate at their highest level and call them back first. Then, once a safe protocol is established with the initial group, you can slowly begin to call additional groups of people as-needed.
Be sure to establish a safety protocol before your people arrive in the office again. Some safety rules should include:
- Requiring a negative COVID-19 test before returning to work
- Conducting temperature checks at the door every morning
- Requiring employees to wear masks at all times
Consider implementing rules regarding in-office distancing. Even though your employees work in a physical office again, it’s essential to keep them as separate as possible (meaning closing down common areas such as conference rooms and kitchens) and encourage everyone to stay six feet apart at all times. You’ll also want to enact rules regarding employee hygiene and handwashing for maximum effectiveness.
All of these points will vary slightly depending on your business and your office setting, but they’re all equally important to keep employees safe and secure.
Continue to Monitor Changing Laws and Regulations to Keep Employees Safe
The COVID-19 pandemic creates an uncertain future for in-office work. Rules and regulations change rapidly as cases rise and fall in different states, and there is always a chance that no matter what you do, your business may need to revert back to a work-from-home model.
- Continue to access the safety of your office and employees by monitoring cases and regulations. Make it a priority to check in on cases being reported at a local level daily, paying attention to trends that could give you better insight into the number of cases in your area.
- Check-in with your employees to access their comfort level. Are people feeling uneasy about being in the office? Is it harming their ability to collaborate and be productive? In that case, a switch back to remote work may be in order sooner rather than later.
- Establish a risk mitigation plan if one of your employees’ contracts COVID-19. Determine a protocol for cleaning and sanitizing your work environment, an alert policy should an employee contract COVID-19, and other actionable steps to take to show employees you have their best interest in mind.
Navigate the New Normal with a Partner by Your Side
The uncertain world ushered in by COVID-19 is a challenge, but every business is doing its best to figure out how to navigate this “new normal,” and some days will be easier than others. Velocity Global employs hundreds of workers worldwide, so we know the challenges of managing an international workforce in the era of COVID-19. If your business needs help working through local laws and regulations in foreign markets or you want to learn more about employing a remote, global workforce quickly and compliantly, contact our experts today.