How Companies Can Safely Transition Back to Work

It comes as no surprise that the professional landscape has looked quite different the last few months due to COVID-19. Due to social distancing measures, the new normal of wearing masks, and other safety guidelines companies are putting into place, we can share that businesses are slowly but surely getting back to work. Even though employees will be sitting at their desks again soon enough, things may feel and look different. After all, employee safety and health are every employer’s first priority. 

Career Group Companies has highlighted our recommendations below for to safely transition back to work. Keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and that executives and HR professionals should make the final call on how to safely transition back to work, depending on how their specific offices operate. 

BEFORE REOPENING:

1. Coordinate with building management. 

The first step to coordinating an office opening is communicating with your building management. After your state and city guidelines allow your business to return to work, reach out to building management to coordinate a timeframe to transition back into your physical office space. Use their insight in establishing a date to return, keeping in mind that they may have several businesses that also want to open back up. In addition to coordinating this date, take this time to learn about the regulations your building will put in place once reopened, such as social distancing in elevators, temperature taking in the lobby, mask requirements, etc.  

2. Identify a RTW coordination team.

Once you’ve worked out a date to safely transition back to work, identify a Return to Work coordination team for your staff. This team is usually made up of leadership and decision-makers, in addition to your company’s HR department. When this team is identified, you should connect several times a week to discuss the reopening plan that makes the most sense for your business. In addition, ensure that all of these individuals are familiar with OSHA’s guide to reopening, and are following it exactly. 

3. Reconfigure your office.

Obviously most offices aren’t equipped to open with the same previous layout – you will have to undergo some changes to bring them up to post-COVID standards, and safely transition back to work. First, rearrange every workspace to enable workers to sit at least six feet apart. Then, evaluate your common areas – do you have a kitchen or conference room that is too small to abide by guidelines? Can you install plexiglass dividers for shared spaces? Continue to execute these changes effectively. If you’re looking for inspiration or guidance, check out Cushman + Wakefield’s Six Feet Office project. 

4. Consider implementing staggered schedules or reduced headcount depending on office size. 

Especially in cities like New York and Washington, DC, employees will be wary of traveling during peak public transit times. Because of this, consider implementing staggered office hours in the short term. Separate the office into two groups, and have one work mornings and one work afternoons. Alternatively, set specific weekdays for certain teams to come into the office.  

WHILE REOPENING:

1. Provide branded or disposable masks and hand sanitizer.

Now that you’re ready to reopen and you know who will be coming in every day, begin to prepare your employees for working safely and feeling comfortable. Provide individual hand sanitizer and at least one mask to every person, so they’ll be able to do their job and stay safe and healthy. If you’d like, you could even order them customized with your company logo from your promotions vendor. 

2. Order the proper cleaning supplies. 

Now that your employees are prepared for a safe return, make sure their workspaces are too. Ensure that your office space is stocked with plenty of disinfectant spray, wipes, and paper towels for employees to clean their workspaces regularly. In addition to having this stockpile, set daily times where workers are expected to stop what they’re doing and sanitize their workstation – ideally, once in the late morning/early afternoon, and once right before they leave for the day.

3. Hang signage. 

Now you have a cleaning regimen set in place, make sure the office reflects all of the new rules. Hang signage in common areas reminding everyone of social distancing guidelines. If you have certain hallways that are one-way, or certain places employees aren’t allowed to gather, make sure the signs reflect that. Also, hang signs in the bathrooms displaying proper handwashing techniques. Finally, hang signs in your shared kitchen or breakroom so that individuals know to sanitize after making a meal or cup of coffee. 

4. Take temperatures and conduct regular interviews.

The best way to keep an office safe is to make sure that everyone who comes in and out of its doors each day is healthy. Do this by taking employee temperatures and conducting a COVID-19 self-assessment at the beginning of every day before employees set foot into the shared space. If you are looking for trained, helpful individuals to take employee temperatures and manage this data for you, contact us to speak about hiring a Wellness Coordinator. Hundreds of companies have contacted us to enlist our services to help their staff return to work safely.

5. Be open and understanding with employees.

It’s important to let your employees know that you are supportive of them during this time. Introduce the members of your RTW to your employees, and let them know that they can go to those individuals with any concerns or questions. Additionally, many employees will be constantly watching and reading the news on what’s going on in their area. Keep them aware of what your future plans are. The best way to ensure a smooth reopening is to remind your workers that you’re in it together and are creating a very safe environment for them. 

Reopening businesses after COVID-19 can be complex, but doable, and there’s many positives to consider about safely transitioning back to work – getting to see work friends again, collaborating and passing ideas around, and setting new professional goals to focus on, all at a distance of course. To get these positives, however, businesses must plan to reopen safely and securely. By following the above guidelines, you’ll be on your way to a smooth, effective reopening. 

Career Group Companies also enlisted the assistance by retaining two medical professionals on staff as part of their phase back to work plan. For more information on the doctors and their services, please contact us.

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