Many employers are looking to return employees to the workplace. Yet the pandemic continues to spiral out of control. There is widespread COVID fatigue not only for individuals but for employers. Everyone would like to see a return to normal. However, uncertainty continues to be the norm for 2020 and we need to prepare ourselves for a new normal. The workplace will likely never return to pre-COVID norms.
Generally, employers are looking at a return to the workplace sometime during the second quarter of 2021. Preparing for that event should begin now. The following offers a summary of decisions and recommended actions to provide for a safe and effective return to the workplace:
Daily screening employees on entry
Employers may elect to do temperature checks of employees as they enter the workplace. It is important to remember this screening must be confidential and must be required for all employees at the location. Management of daily screening outweighs any benefit. Temperature checks alone are not a guarantee as individuals may be asymptomatic.
Consider traffic patterns in the office like one-way halls.
Eliminate group meetings, use electronic options like Zoom and Teams.
Limit face to face contact by encouraging phone calls and emails. (Ironic given our prior promotion of face to face interaction)
Establish visitor policies to conform with expectations of employees to physically distance.
Eliminate business travel, like group meetings. Rely on electronic options.
Identify the appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) requirements, masks and handwashing. Make sure an adequate supply of PPE is available to employees.
Establish policy/guidelines for reporting a positive COVID case in the workplace.
Establish procedures for contact tracing in the event of workplace exposure.
Establish cleaning and disinfection procedures to prevent the spread.
Attendance and Paid Time Off policies
Consider relaxing attendance guidelines to encourage sick employees to stay home. Include consideration of childcare issues due to COVID.
Determine how you will handle a sick employee sent home. Will you pay them for the day or not?
Develop flexible schedule alternatives to reduce lost wages for employees who must quarantine or be out due to childcare issues like, return to remote work, a compressed workweek, greater flexibility in start and stop times.
Most importantly, prepare to train all employees on new expectations in the workplace. Training will support compliance, improve safety and demonstrate the value placed health and safety.
For a more comprehensive guide use the link below to view the CDC Resuming Business Toolkit.
The content above focused on policy considerations for a return to the workplace. Below is a list of other policy considerations for addressing the pandemic:
- Consider any impact due to changes in state and federal law. If you employ fewer than 500, review impact of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
- Review requirements to use or not use available paid time off benefits.
- Type of work eligible for telecommuting.
- The process to request telecommuting
- Requirements/expectations for telecommuting.
- Procedures for layoffs and furloughs
- Benefit impact, eligibility, duration and cost.
- Background check process and delays due to the pandemic
- I-9 process for remote hiring
- Eligibility impact of layoffs and furloughs
- Coverage changes like coverage for COVID testing and vaccines
- Changes to Flexible Spending Account guidelines.
- Changes in COBRA guidelines
- Eligibility changes due to breaking in service
- Coronavirus related distributions
- Loan provisions (amount, eligibility, payback) to help employees with financial hardships.
- Updates on policy changes
- Cross-training required
Written by Becky Meister, Baker Creative HR Specialist