What Companies Should Do When Returning to Work after COVID-19

By Michael Klazema on 6/2/2020

As stay-at-home orders lift and the conversation continues about reopening the United States economy, it’s critical that businesses across all sectors start considering their return-to-work policies. Getting things back to how they were before COVID-19 will be a process, not an overnight transition. Here are five things that companies should be doing as they move toward a long-awaited return:

  1. Build a phased return-to-work approach. Bringing your entire workforce back on the same day and resuming operations as if nothing ever happened is a recipe for disaster. If you are bringing people back into the workplace, you should do so through a phased approach. Many of the essential businesses that have continued their in-person operations throughout the pandemic have done so with skeleton crews to maximize social distancing and minimize exposure risk.

As your business establishes and implements new strategies for keeping the workplace safe in the wake of COVID-19, consider phasing your return-to-work strategy to bring back your team gradually. A steadier approach will give you time to adjust your protocols as your build toward a 100 percent return.

  1. Think about the challenges facing parents. If you are deciding who will return first and who will keep working remotely, consider the challenges of working parents. In most parts of the country, schools have been closed since March, summer camps are in limbo or canceled, and childcare options are limited. Allowing working parents to keep working from home is an easy answer to your phased return-to-work dilemma and a way to save those employees headaches.
  2. Assess your business layout. One of the first things that employers are doing as they build their return-to-work strategies is considering business layouts. Many offices, retail shops, restaurants, and other businesses were never designed to allow for the social distancing that is likely to be the norm as workers return. Look at your layout and think about what you can do to reduce the density of employees and customers alike. In an office, for instance, consider leaving every other workstation empty or even bringing back cubicles.  
  3. Adopt new protocols aimed at health and safety. From ramping up your cleaning and sanitization protocols to requiring temperature checks and masks for employees, there are multiple policies that you can adopt on Day One to make the workplace a healthier place to be 
  4. Revisit your hiring policy. If you are planning to hire, consider how COVID-19 may impact that process. The pandemic has created delays in some background checks due in part to court closures. It has also made remote hiring a leading trend. Research video interview tools and other at-a-distance platforms that can enable you to hire, vet, onboard, and train new personnel without putting your other employees at greater risk.

Employers must provide a safe workplace for their employees. Failure to live up to this bargain risks OSHA violations and legal difficulties as well as a loss of goodwill among employees.

All businesses are eager to get back to full speed and start regaining some of the ground that they’ve lost during the pandemic. However, rushing the process of reopening will create new problems. Being deliberate about your reopening—and considering the five steps discussed above—will allow your brand to handle the return with grace, sense, and safety.

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