Work has changed. That’s just a matter of fact at this point. Everything that used to be standard is now up for consideration.
That doesn’t mean office life is gone, but it does mean how we interact with our places of work will be significantly different for the foreseeable future. There are dozens of new regulations being worked on at the federal, state, and local levels.
If you’re in the position where you’re starting to bring people back into a communal workspace of any kind, you’ll want to consult with an HR professional about how these will impact your business. For some more universal advice, here are some best practices to create a healthy and positive work environment when you return:
1. Communication and Expectations
- Centralized Communication – Having a central source for information about what is happening in your business and expectations about returning will help put your employees more at ease. You might also need to write new guidelines and modify your employee handbook to reflect new changes in the workplace.
- Who Should Return? It might also benefit your company to think through if everyone needs to return to work. Depending on the employer and employees, it might be best for some to remain remote workers, only coming into the office when necessary. If employees are maintaining productivity levels, this is ultimately one of the safest options for them and could alleviate a lot of mental stress. Just be sure to be mindful of the potential for telework fatigue as time goes by. This can be averted through regular communication and check-ins.
2. Employee health and safety
- Cleanliness and Sanitation – Even if you had cleaners coming through before, standards are going to have be raised across the board. Adequate cleaning supplies that are easily accessible for all employees is a requirement. Take note of any areas that are frequently touched or where people tend to gather. You’ll want to give special attention, and more frequent sanitation, to those spots.
- Space and Social Distancing – It’s important to have adequate space for employees to practice good social distancing, as well as limiting large group interactions. If it’s possible, you might want to modify the workspace and communal areas for better practice in this area.
- Definitive Regulations – OSHA has released a guide with clear regulations for businesses that covers a variety of different industries. Keep in mind that there might be other measures you can take beyond what’s been written and doing so can help build trust between you and your employees. You can find their resources here.
* Please note that standards and requirements can vary by state and industry.
3. Testing and Monitoring
- Taking Temperatures – The EEOC has relaxed it’s rule around temperature taking and now allows this practice by employers. Whether or not your business should operate this way is a judgement call depending on your industry and what you’re comfortable with. If an employee refuses a health screening like this, you are allowed to ban access to the premise.
- Employee Information – When bringing employees back, it’s within the rights of an employer to ask employees if they have been exposed, have symptoms, and/or have tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, employees should tell their employers if any of these criteria are true.
- We hope these items a good starting point for your business to start thinking critically about a return to work strategy. Know that this is an ever-evolving topic with many different nuances across industry. There’s a chance that some businesses might be able to survive being mostly remote these days, while others need to reopen their place of work ASAP.
Whatever your situation, if you are looking for more information on best practices about returning to the workplace and COVID-19, check out these sources.
Our COVID-19 resource page is always updated with latest information.
- COVID Vaccine Mandates: A Roadmap for Employers
- 6 Best Practices for Encouraging COVID Vaccination and Maintaining HR Compliance: Part 2
- Reducing Risk for COVID Lawsuits: The Essential Checklist
- COVID Vaccine Mandates: 6 Considerations When Employees Can’t or Won’t Get Vaccinated
- 6 Best Practices for Encouraging COVID Vaccination and Maintaining HR Legal Compliance: Part 1
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