At PSCI, we like to exude positivity. However, while we eagerly anticipate a return-to-work date, simply opening the doors and expecting business to get back to normal may be a bit premature. While we will eventually reach that goal, there are still issues to keep in mind when making the decision to bring workers back into the office. But with a little bit of patience and thoughtfulness, that goal will be achieved.
While each employer’s plan to return to work will look different, there are a few considerations most should adhere to. Below, we outline what employers should consider before making the decision to allow workers to return to the workplace.
Before anything else, employers should ensure their workplaces are as safe as can be. Allowing, or mandating, workers to return to the office without implementing the proper safety precautions beforehand would be irresponsible. Preparing for and communicating how safety is a top priority, however, can help to ease any employee concerns.
Some safety measures may include:
- Mandating masks be worn in all shared spaces
- Providing a supply of personal, or easily accessible, hand sanitizer
- Implementing employee health screening protocols (e.g., screening questions, temperature checks, etc.)
- More frequent and detailed cleaning procedures, including the sanitization of all shared surfaces
- Implementing physical distance measures within the office, which could include:
- Staggered lunchbreaks
- Rotating weeks in the office and working remotely
- Increasing separation between workstations
- Implementing one-way traffic patterns (e.g., up and down staircases as well as enter-only and exit-only doors)
- Limiting elevator occupancy
Communication & Policy
Establishing a clear communication plan will allow employees to understand how the organization plans to reopen. Once a return-to-work date has been set, employees should be notified ASAP. And ideally, that notice should be made weeks, if not months, beforehand. Doing so will allow employees to arrange for the proper accommodations for their families (e.g., childcare) and allow them enough time to get vaccinated. Sharing with them the CDC’s guidelines for returning to work would also be advised.
Because it’s no longer business as usual, employers should also update and create policies to reflect the new normal. Some examples include:
- Relaxed attendance policies that encourages sick employees to stay home
- Implementing flexible work to allow for hybrid work schedules
- Travel policy changes to reflect essential versus nonessential travel
A Remote Work Continuation
Well before the terms coronavirus and COVID-19 entered our daily lexicon, we’ve touted the benefits of remote work. And for many, working from home has proven to work well during the pandemic. So, continuing to allow workers to work remotely should absolutely be considered once the decision has been made to bring workers back into the office.
Remote work has not only proven to improve employees’ work-life balance, but it’s also shown to be a cost-saving measure for employers. If feasible, continuing to allow for remote work or even adopting flexible and hybrid work schedules may make for the best business practice. It’ll not only help to retain workers who wish to continue working remotely, but it’ll also help to attract workers seeking remote positions (of which there are many).
As we learned in school years ago, it’s better to be safe than sorry!