Returning to the Workplace in a Covid-19 Environment

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In the first of my Receivables Management International (RMAi) webinar, I discussed how to prioritize employee well-being during times of Covid-19. In this installment of the series, Eric Ziehlke and Bill Dardano of Insperity, Human Resources Specialist and Safety Consultant, respectively, discuss the logistics of opening our workplaces as we navigate the Covid-19 pandemic.

Returning to work and what our workplaces will look like as we return is a relevant topic many of us have been grappling with for months. To ensure everyone’s health and safety as reopening plans are devised, the need for proper risk mitigation policies and practices, balanced with genuine care for employees and their families, remains crucial.

Opening Up America

While state and local municipalities have the ability to modify the structure of the federal government’s three-phase “Opening Up America Again” program, the Federal government’s release of this plan provided state and local governments a structure of how and when employees can return to work. 

When considering and implementing the logistics of returning to work, The Four C’s of communication that I discussed during my first blog are instrumental to success. Employers must be clear, caring, consistent, and correct when presenting information, enacting company policy changes, providing reasons for specific measures and actions, and communicating during these uncertain times. 

Crucial Considerations

While The Four C’s of Communication will help in our return to the workplace, specific employers must consider and devise implementation strategies that include: 

1.  Devising workplace return schedules

    • Will shifts be staggered? 
    • How will schedules be negotiated with employees? 
    • How can any higher risk employees be accommodated?

2.  Creating specific cleaning and sanitizing protocols for your workplace

    • How often will cleaning be done?
    • Who will be in charge of ensuring that the cleaning and disinfection schedule is followed?
    • What specific disinfectant will be used and is it available?

3.  Ensuring adequate supply of PPE (personal protective equipment)

    • What will policies surrounding PPE use in the workplace look like?
    • What will social distancing measures look like for your workplace?

4.  Determining what specific hygiene practices will be implemented

    • How will employees be notified and reminded of these policies?

5.  Deciding what, if any, the consequences will be for not adhering to the policies and procedures

6.  Implementing possible screening policies for your employees

    • Will employee self-reporting be enough?
    • Will/can you implement temperature checks? (Note that checking your state’s laws is crucial if employee screening is planned.) 

Employers should use facts and sound policies to ease the fears that employees may be facing. Many of these fears can be alleviated by the proper planning and implementation of the policies discussed above. However, individual circumstances may prove to be challenging. For instance, if an employee isn’t able to breathe with a mask on, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) legislation must be taken into consideration and accommodations must be made.

Helpful Resources 

Reading and understanding the published language and policies of the Federal government is one important step employers can take to provide information to employees and implement best practices for employee safety.

Safety Posters and Printables offered by the Federal Government for workplaces:

In Summary 

Communicating the fluidity of the still-developing pandemic is a crucial component of any discussion with employees. The adage to prepare for the worst but hope for the best rings true as we work to reopen our workplaces in light of this pandemic. Communications, both on a practical and a personal level, with employees, information and resources, and sound policies and ensured implementation will all go far in creating safe workplaces for employees to return to.

Disclaimer 

This information is not legal advice and may not be used as legal advice. Information discussed or contained is not an explanation of the law and is presented for educational purposes only. 

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