Returning To Work After COVID-19
As fewer cases of coronavirus are reported, businesses are starting to transition their employees back into the workplace. It is crucial, however, to plan for every eventuality, from government regulations and landlord policies to facilities management and occupancy planning. This blog sets out a checklist that will focus your plans for the transition and make your workplace COVID-19 secure.
COVID-19 secure workplace checklist
Local government regulations
Stay compliant by seeking local government guidance on reopening places of work. In some cases, you will need to obtain a new certificate of occupancy. If this is the case, be sure to do it before your staff return to the workplace.
Confirm any new rules and procedures with your landlord and determine the necessary policies regarding the building’s safety and cleanliness.
Business continuity plan (BCP)
Ensure your BCP includes a verified list of essential roles and individuals who will be returning to work. Supplement this with contingency plans and critical response controls to account for a failed reopening or another virus outbreak that forces additional closures.
PPE supply chains
Keep a close eye on PPE (especially face masks) supply chains and consider advance orders for items with long-lead times.
HR and legal considerations
Establish protocols for employees with high-risk conditions (e.g. asthma, heart conditions) who will not be returning to the workplace immediately. Prepare a HIPPA-compliant policy that allows your employees to report suspected infections and grievances confidentially.
Workspace and speciality areas
Ensure floor plans and seating arrangements meet your local government’s social distancing guidelines. Use appropriate signage throughout the building to communicate new COVID-secure workplace protocols and etiquette. Plan how to address impact on non-work areas like post rooms and gyms – one way is designing a one-way system that limits the number of people using these areas at a given time. Where applicable, set straightforward policies for entry into other company buildings.
To safely manage potential evacuations, assign floor wardens and ensure your evacuation procedures comply with social distancing guidelines. For multi-storey buildings, confirm elevator protocol and occupancy levels with your landlord. To safeguard against a failed reopening or a further virus outbreak, devise phased and emergency closing procedures.
Establish occupancy and employee tracking for the building and any potential infection zones. Room reservation technology and any equipment provided should adhere to social distancing measures – and be sure to distribute disinfectants and hand sanitiser within easy reach of each piece of equipment.
Ensure essential employees are acquainted with entry and exit protocols and confirm building shutdown policies in the case of further emergency closures.
Assign an employee to announce workplace closures and decide who needs to approve plans for reopening (e.g. HR, external crisis management team, risk audit team, legal team).
Reassure employees their safety remains the top priority
It would be best if you supported the above checklist by reassuring your employees their safety remains the top priority during this worrying time. The COVID-secure measures you implement (sanitising surfaces, observing, social distancing, encouraging handwashing) will help, but there are other ways to put your employees' minds at rest.
Consider staggering work schedules to afford staff more personal space, while ensuring that procedures are in place for the proper cleaning of floors, seating, and workspaces. For more information on returning to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the government's website.