Employee engagement
Thomas Paris
January 17, 2020
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Your Return To Work Plan - 24 Things To Keep In Mind

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Your Return To Work Plan - 24 Things To Keep In Mind

Thomas Paris
June 18, 2020
Your Return To Work Plan - 24 Things To Keep In Mind

The world is reopening. While most people are excited about returning to work, many others are worried about the health implications. You wouldn’t blame anybody for being concerned because COVID-19 is still present, with no treatment or vaccine in place yet. On the other hand, you can’t still blame the people who are in support of the reopening because that’s the means of their livelihood.

Working from home has been fun--a dream for most. You just wake up, take your time to exercise, watch an episode of ‘The Office,’ read, and just chill before it’s time for work. You don’t worry about the commute. The only hassle is whether to shower or not.

Many companies are considering and planning for the reopening of their offices.

Although companies like Twitter have said their employees can work from home forever, and Facebook has also said about half of their staff can work remotely for the next 5-10years.

HR managers welcoming their returning employees back to work have to take proactive measures towards ensuring that the workplace is safe and that social distancing measures are in place. So that everyone coming back to the office maintains and adapts to the new normal.

It’s undoubtedly going to be tough, but with the right strategies, it should be a breeze.

Moving forward, here are 24 things to keep in mind when returning to work.




1. Take your employees’ mental health into consideration

Some employees may not feel safe returning to work--out of fear of getting infected. They would be faced with a series of mental issues like sadness, fear, irritability, guilt, and anxiety. You can’t blame anybody because, with the isolation and what has been going on, those effects are normal. So what do you do?

  • Bring in therapists for employees that are struggling to adjust (their health benefits should cover this.)
  • Offer mental health leave
  • Encourage the employees to use a Mental Health Hotline when they feel depressed.
  • Set up a mental health support group for employees to share their stories and experiences

employee mental health


2. If any employee shows symptoms, be ready to act

We get this question a lot. What if employees show symptoms of COVID-19? Considering that you’ve already put up your posters that show the symptoms. When they come to you, follow these steps:

  • Isolate: Let them stay in separate work areas and bathrooms, to avoid the risk of spreading it.
  • Call for help: Call the health authorities to give you further instruction.
  • Provide a means of transportation for them: You can’t allow the infected person to use public transport. As that might cause it to spread. If the health authorities ordered self-isolation, then find a volunteer that would take the person home. 
  • Clean the area the person was working: Ensure that the person cleaning the area uses Personal Protective Equipment.
  • Find out who in your workplace had personal interaction with the person: If anyone had close contact with the person, he/she should be isolated. And if a larger part of the office were in close contact with the person, then everyone would have to be self-isolated for the next 14 days.
  • Clean (again): For the new set of people who have been isolated, you have to get the cleaners to clean the area again while wearing Personal Protective Equipment.
  • You may have to rethink things: Working from the office may not be the best idea if people are still getting infected. You might have to continue working from home for everyone’s safety. If not, you’d have to take stricter safety and social distancing measures.


3. Don’t bring the employees back, all at once

It may be risky to have your employees resume at the same time. Try to divide the working hours into shifts. Let them switch from working remotely to working from in the office. Due to the social distancing rule, all employees may not be able to stay at the office all at once.

crowded office


4. Have a visitor policy

By now, you should know that the number of people in the office at the same time needs to be limited. This would affect office deliveries too. You should be extra mindful of deliveries. Let deliveries be done outside the premises and anybody receiving deliveries should follow safety protocols for receiving deliveries

Visitors have to have their temperatures checked; their hands have to be washed and they must have face masks on. You would have to prepare a clearly written Visitor’s policy to ensure proper abidance.   


5. Get someone to volunteer to check the temperatures of employees 

It might not be possible to get a Medical Professional to come to your Workplace to test everyone as they enter, so it’s best to get a volunteer among the employees. According to the SHRM guidelines, the person checking the temperatures must wear Protective Clothing and follow the Privacy policies, among others.

For privacy reasons, it’s not ideal to check everyone’s temperature at the entrance of the office. Temperatures have to be checked one on one, to keep results discreet.

6. Encourage personal hygiene among staff

Your efforts will be in vain if you don’t encourage personal hygiene among the employees. They’re a part of your team, and if they don’t take active steps to protect themselves, everyone in the office is in trouble. Make wearing face masks, sneezing into elbows, washing hands regularly, and using hand sanitizers a norm. 

Set hourly reminders on everybody’s computers to wash their hands and stretch to get their blood pumping.

return to work plan - wear masks and wash hands

7. Educate the employees on healthy Habits

It is essential to educate the employees on how the disease spreads and the measures to take to protect themselves. You might think everyone should have the knowledge by now, but you may be wrong. Be on the safe side and educate your employees on the safety measures to take outside of work. It’s for everybody’s safety. 

It takes just one person to spread the virus. You can place posters around the office as reminders.  

8. Maintain remote work (for some staff)

It may not be a wise decision to resume now for economic and health reasons. Some areas still have serious cases, so it might be risky to bring back your employees immediately. Some employees are more vulnerable due to where they live. So it’s best to let some staff continue to work remotely.

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9. Take steps to improve productivity

With the new policies, the virus, and the lower amount of employees in the office, it would be harder for the employees to adjust. 

But you have to be on top of it. Give some days to work remotely and give everyone productivity resources that would boost productivity. Maintain office culture like Costume day, office birthday celebrations, etc. This would make them feel excited and ready to get back to work.


10. Limit the number of people in meetings

The social distancing rules should apply to meetings too. Depending on the size of the conference room, ensure that there’s proper spacing between employees. This would automatically mean that a lesser amount of people would be present in the room. If it’s a meeting that requires a larger number of people to be present, you can consider doing it over Zoom.


11. Adjust the office arrangement

Social distancing has to be maintained--it isn’t going to end anytime soon. The required distance to keep is 6 feet. So, you should ensure that the distancing rules are met to ensure everyone’s safety. This would affect the entire office arrangement

According to CSU, Physical barriers are also appropriate to ensure that the distancing is maintained. Consider installing Sneeze Guards on each desk to reduce the transmission of germs.

12. No handshakes (or hugs)

As HR managers, you would have to ensure that things happen a bit differently. Handshakes and hugs as forms of greetings would need to be canceled. Your employees know this already, but it should still be mentioned. Why? With the lockdown, the employees may not have seen each other since, so they may try to break the rules. Try to enforce a strict no-handshake policy.

awkward office hug


13. Create a system for interaction

Things would be awkward at first--With the new office arrangements and the reduced number of staff in the office. It’s your job to maintain office communication. Allow them time to reconnect and interact with each other.

To make it fun, you can divide them into groups by their interests for the first couple of weeks. Let the groups eat together and have similar breaks. This would foster communication.

14. Maintain communication between remote workers and in-house workers

You have to step up communication among employees. Companies have invested more in communication during this period. You shouldn’t slow down now. If you do, you will risk making the remote workers feel alienated. Improve employee engagement (remote and in-house) using communication tools like Slack and Chatr.


15. Keep the workplace clean

You can go to the office a day before everyone resumes with cleaners to properly sanitize the workplace. Let them disinfect everything. The virus lasts longer on surfaces, so you can’t leave anything to chance. 

The Cleaners would have to work more often in this period to ensure that everyone is clean. So they would have to clean before work, during work, and after work. You can also show the Cleaners the CDC Cleaning and Disinfecting guidelines to give them a better context on how cleaning should be done

16. Provide sanitizing products

Before Employees come to work, keep these personal hygiene products in place because not everyone would take their personal hygiene as seriously as they should. You have to ensure that these things are within reach. Provide Hand sanitizers, Soap, tissues, face masks, and paper towels for anyone who needs to use them.

office hand sanetizer gel
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17. Create posters that encourage staying at home when sick 

The employees may not want to admit that they have COVID-19 symptoms, But when they see those posters, they would be encouraged to let you know about the symptoms they are facing so they can be excused from work. This would create a safer environment for everyone

18. Conduct a return-to-work interview for furloughed workers

As part of the ease of lockdown, furloughed workers would likely return to work. And it’s best to conduct a one-on-one interview with them. In the interview, you should give them updates on their jobs(i.e, the necessary adjustments) and explain to them the reason for their absence. Doing this would give them the morale boost they need to get back to work. 


19. Stay in touch with any employee in quarantine

It would take a toll on an employee’s mental health if he/she gets infected and has to be away from everyone. Organize with your staff to do something special for the employee. It could be a video compilation of everyone telling him/her to get well soon. This is great for the employee’s mental health.


20. Eliminate physical interaction with customers

Let’s say you work in a B2C company where you have to attend to and communicate with customers daily. Let customers take their orders online. And if they must come to the store, use floor tapes, so they can start 6 feet apart.


21. Find out if employees need extra help

Some employees may rely on Public transport to come to work. If it’s possible, you can organize a staff bus (for the meantime) to take the employees from and to their homes--to safeguard them from getting infected.

22. Get employee feedback and input

It is important to see things from the Employees’ perspective, so it wouldn’t look like you’re forcing policies down their throats.

Try to get them to tell you the days that would be suitable for them to come into work, the requirements, and how much they want to work from home through a Questionnaire.


23. Lead by example

The employees would only listen to you if you can lead with your actions. You should start by using facemasks, washing your hands regularly, sneezing into your arms, and maintaining social distancing. This way, the employees would be open to your new orders and policies.


24. Protect yourself

As the HR Manager, all these things wouldn’t be possible if you don’t take the necessary steps to protect yourself. This is the time to act and be strong. You cannot do this alone, assemble other managers to ensure that all these things are put in place before work resumes.



Conclusion

You may not be able to do everything immediately because of the cost. For example, rearranging the office space and installing the sneeze guards may not be the cheapest option for now. So you might need to find more affordable solutions while you make arrangements for the others.

Maintaining Remote Work a bit longer is one of those cheaper options because it gives you fewer people in the office and more time to adapt.

But the most important thing is to have a plan. Start crafting your plan from now.

Show your workers you care by letting them choose the perks they love here.

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