Businesses must realize that COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we work. The recent Covid-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to redesign operations and adapt their processes, priorities, and technologies to new realities. As businesses start to reopen, employers have to plan how to bring employees back into the workplace while ensuring social distancing and other safety measures are in place.

Remote work does come with its share of concerns such as a feeling of isolation, lack of visibility, boredom, lack of guidance and communication from managers, absence of team camaraderie, mental health issues, decreased work-life balance, cultural barriers and other distractions. Due to these reasons, many employees are looking forward to getting back to work in a physical location as long as their safety is not compromised.

A physical work location cannot function as it used to but should meet the requirements of the new normal. Otherwise, we risk denting employee safety, confidence, productivity, and company culture. Businesses shouldn’t expect things to organically go back right back to how things were before the pandemic. Transitioning employees into the workplace without adequate planning, safety measures or strategy is a recipe for disaster. Employees will need time to adjust and adapt as well as make those mindset changes needed to be up to speed and productive at work.

Here are a few ways employers can plan the return of employees back to the workplace and ensure a smooth transition.

  • Organizations should meet requirements for social distancing and have protective supplies such as masks, hand-washing facilities, and disinfectants available. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects.
  • Install thermal scanners to detect elevated body temperature. Make provision for increased ventilation at the workplace. Instruct sick workers to stay at home.
  • Implement return to work in stages to reduce the total number of employees in a physical location at a given time, allowing them to maintain distance from one another. Not more than 30 percent of the total workforce should be physically present at the workplace at a given time.
  • Communicate new workplace guidelines frequently to employees through various channels. Have an open-door policy and provide space for employees to share their concerns. Be open to feedback and suggestions. Check on your employees from time to time to gauge how they are doing. Address their concerns and take corrective action to ensure the safety and morale of employees are intact. Create mental health awareness and provide access to resources on mental health.
  • Provide employees with guidance and training on COVID-19 preventive measures and protocols such as hand washing, avoiding handshakes or close physical contact, not touching your face frequently, or coughing etiquette. Encourage frequent hand washing and sanitizing. Training employees on how to use and wear protective equipment, and how to dispose it, specifically in the realm of their current roles and responsibilities.
  • Avoid public transportation to get to work. Avoid assembling in conference rooms, cafeteria, pantries, or other spaces were people congregate. Keep six feet distance apart if possible. Eat lunch at your own desk and away from others. Avoid crowded areas. Eliminate unnecessary meeting, gathering, workshops, or travel.
  • Provide flexibility for employees with kids as schools and daycare centers are still closed. Employers should take into consideration that employees will have the added responsibility of caring for their child and employers will need to plan their work schedules around it. Inform employees in advance regarding work schedules so that they can plan for child care alternatives.