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Managing the Safe Return of Employees

Managing the Safe Return of Employees

The stay at home orders have forced many to limit their travel and transition to working remotely. While we are still battling this global health problem, countries worldwide are starting to allow businesses to reopen. As employees return to the office, employers must take a few important matters into consideration to keep everyone safe.

Workplace Health and Safety

COVID-19 has made people more health conscious, particularly as it pertains to communal and public areas. While many workers are eager to return to the office, others will feel unsafe and may wish to continue working remotely.

Employers must plan and execute a workplace safety training the first day back to discuss sanitation and hygiene procedures. This will help employees adhere to expert guidelines on social distancing and hygiene to decrease the risk of transmission. In addition, there will need to be adjustments to office space to follow health and safety guidelines. While newer office spaces are designed to encourage social interactions through ping pong tables or break rooms for lunch, employers will be advised to remove furniture and temporarily close areas to prohibit social gatherings the ensure everyone can return and work safely. Rotating office schedules is an option to ensure office spaces aren’t crowded and safe social distancing is maintained.

Who Should Come Back First

It is becoming clear that many employers will need to implement a staggering return to work policy. While different industries have different timelines for return, there remains the issue of which employees should return to the office first. The consideration to be made is how many workers can be brought back while prioritizing the health and safety of people.

Different companies will require different employees to return sooner than others. In the automobile industry, several automakers plan to have production line workers return under strict guidelines. Michael Wayland, a CNBC reporter, states:

“General Motors employees are instructed to stand at least six feet apart and go through a health screening that includes a temperature check. They also sanitize their hands and put on a face mask and safety glasses.”

These health guidelines will allow workers to perform their jobs while continuing to hold safety as a priority to prevent further health hazards.

For industries that require a multitude of roles to return quickly, skeleton teams of essential staff members may be the best first returners. This option allows companies with multiple divisions to bring back a wide variety of roles in safe phases. Those considered as “essential staff” should be key members needed to ensure the company can continue business.

Having timelines for various groups of employees to return will help reassure employees that there’s a plan in place and that their safety is being taken seriously.

A Period of Pre-adaptation

Transitioning to remote work presented initial challenges which resolved as workers accepted teleworking as the new normal. Many have already adapted to working from home by optimizing their new environment to become more productive. However, there will likely be a similar period of difficulty as we begin to phase back into the office.

Readjusting back to the office life may bring a temporary drop in productivity for some companies, because workers will have to rearrange their work schedules and readjust to their commutes. It will be different for everyone – those who were telecommuting will have to shift back to a traditional 9-5, but those who were furloughed will need to re-adapt to workplace standards all together.

While maintaining good client relations is of the upmost importance, this may lead to overworked or stressed staff who are tasked with making up for lost time. Plans need to be put in place to manage expectations and optimize workflow when workers resume in-office work life. This will be paramount for companies operating with limited staff and those who may have downsized during this period.

Companies should be mindful during the transition period that not only is the safety of employees important, but business operations and sales will need to be closely monitored in the early stages of a return. It is difficult to predict how the economy will react to this unprecedented situation. Therefore, adjustments will need to be implemented once employers can better assess their companies’ position.

The Future of Work

People are speculating that the future of workplace standards will change from the traditional office life. When looking at what the new normal could be, we can certainly foresee a rise in the demand of flexible work policies. For example, if employees no longer feel comfortable in an office environment, the desire to work remote can force companies to rethink their policies. Several major tech companies have extended work from home policies through the end of the year to protect their employees. Yet others, including Twitter and TCS have declared their intent to allow more work from home as part of their long-term plans.

Companies that quickly respond to the changing demands of workers will be some of the most successful in providing positive employee experience and will see that impact their employer brand. The ability to work remote, and sanitation and safety practices are just a few additions that will be executed in the upcoming years to prepare for future disruptions.

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