October 19, 2020
The return-to-work process starts by being prepared and putting together a plan for your employees. However, you should remain open to their concerns and suggestions, which are unique for every business and workforce.
Develop an Employee Safety Plan
While nearly every leader understands the value of being prepped for disasters like fires and inclement weather, COVID-19 planning is still new for many of us.
The basics of social distancing and proper hygiene are easy to grasp, but you may not have considered steps like placing social distancing markers near elevators, deciding if food will be permitted in break-rooms, and whether or not employees need to be masked at their workstations.1 You also need to determine what the next steps will be if a confirmed case of COVID-19 happens in your workplace.
It is best to follow federal, state and local guidelines. You can also review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for business and employers, which features articles about considerations for office buildings, restaurants and bars, casinos and gambling operations, small businesses, pet stores and more.
Set up a Screening and Testing Program
Implementing a screening and testing program is a great way to put your employees’ minds at ease while helping to keep them safe. It can be as simple as taking their temperatures each day or as complicated as a full screening, testing, Quarantine Management and contact tracing program.
Our Employee Health Services team can help. Whether you choose to have your employees get tested at a MedExpress center or work with us to create a custom on-site testing and screening solution, we have a plan that fits your organization. Learn more about our COVID-19 resources for your workforce here.
Improve Your Building’s Ventilation System
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, ensuring the proper ventilation of outside air within your workspace can help reduce the concentration of airborne contaminants, such as viruses. In addition, the CDC has stated that “indoor spaces are more risky than outdoor spaces where it might be harder to keep people apart and there’s less ventilation.” This means that high-traffic areas will likely require additional ventilation.2 If increasing ventilation isn’t practical, limit the number of people in the building or in specific rooms.
Each state (and potentially towns and the counties they occupy) has its own recommended capacity level for businesses and public spaces, which varies by type of business and the current rate of COVID-19 spread in your community. Please consult your state government’s website for more information.
Keep Your HVAC System Running
The American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) advises that the ventilation and filtration provided by your building’s HVAC system may be an effective way to potentially help reduce the airborne concentration of SARS-CoV-2 and thus reduce the risk of airborne transmission.
Business owners should continue to run their HVAC systems to protect employees who may be negatively impacted by low or high temperatures. Disabling these systems is not a recommended way to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.3
Set the Tone Before You Go Back
As a leader, you have the opportunity to make the Return-to-Work process a collaborative experience. Your employees should feel empowered to share their thoughts and concerns before coming back to the workplace. Be transparent and share the entire plan with your workforce, including continued work from home options and if there will be split work shifts.
Adjusting work schedules and providing childcare for employees balancing their work and children learning from home is important, too. Plus, you should work directly with team members who have health conditions that put them at risk or have high-risk family members at home.
Give Your Employees a Head Start
A practical welcome back box does more than show your workforce that you care about their health and well-being. It can also provide them with valuable tools that they’ll use every day to keep the workplace safer, including disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and face coverings.
Above all else, remain open to your employees’ concerns and suggestions. In the same way that adjusting to work-from-home took some time, coming back to work will require plenty of coaching, support and time. By incorporating these steps and remaining open, you’ll help make the workday as normal as possible.
1 CDC: Businesses and Workplaces: Plan, Prepare, and Respond. Last updated August 25, 2020. Accessed August 31, 2020.
2 EPA: Ventilation and Coronavirus (COVID-19). Accessed August 31, 2020.
3 ASHRAE: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response Resources from ASHRAE and Others. Last updated August 25, 2020. Accessed August 31, 2020.