For many businesses, employees have been working from home for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the time comes to go back to the office, there’s no doubt that many employees are nervous about what the return to work will look like. How can your business instill confidence and prepare staff to come back?
We’ve created a checklist with a few measures you can take to help your employees ease back into office life. Take some time to review these items to ensure you’re prepared to create a safe and comfortable working environment for your employees.
- Provide a way for employees to maintain a safe physical distance, if possible.
For some businesses, such as healthcare providers, consistently maintaining a distance of six feet isn’t really possible. In cases such as these, supply your staff with masks and require that they are worn. Ensure employees have access to other protective measures such as handwashing stations or hand sanitizer. Let employees know when and how the workspace is being cleaned.
If your space allows for physical distance, consider the formation of desks in the office. For example, in open office plans, you might open at half capacity and have a staff member seated at every other desk.
Consider that employees who feel your business is reopening without taking necessary precautions can file a complaint with your state’s labor agency or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- Evaluate paid leave plans and other employee support measures.
If you want to inspire confidence in your employees and retain them, now is the time to reevaluate paid leave plans. Good paid leave practices show employees that your business cares and provides a sense of security to staff. If a staff member gets sick or needs to take care of a family member, make sure they know what resources are available to them.
If you’re already offering a strong paid leave program and want to provide additional support to employees during this time, consider ways you can support the mental well-being of employees as well as the physical. Many mental health professionals are offering telemedicine services that may benefit your employees. Make sure your staff knows about any resources you already have available and consider subsidizing costs for additional services.
- Establish a plan for employees with children.
We’re all having to be flexible during this time, but this time is especially difficult for parents with school-age children. Most parents are without childcare during the workday right now. Survey your employees to identify parents and see if they need to alter their work schedule to take care of children. Remember that under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, employers have to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave if they can’t work because they test positive for COVID-19 or have to care for a child when schools and day-care centers are closed.
- Set up a regular communication schedule.
If an employee in the office gets sick, let other in-office employees know right away. Amazon has recently come under fire after failing to share that an employee had tested positive for COVID-19. This is information that employees need to know in order to reduce the spread of illness.
An open line of communication will show employees that your business cares about their health and wellness. While your leadership needs to communicate with staff, you also need to ensure that employees have a way to voice concerns. Send out a weekly survey to gauge whether or not physical distancing rules are being respected and ensure that employees continue to feel safe in your office.
Read More: Learn how mental health professionals are adopting telehealth practices in this interview.
Here’s a final note on this topic. These tips will help you create a supportive environment for employees to get work done, but it’s critical during this transition is to acknowledge employee concerns. These concerns aren’t unwarranted, and it’s important to show that your business is aware. Take some time to share with staff why you’ve decided it’s safe and necessary to reopen.