As workplaces reopen, companies are tasked with not only easing employee concerns but also keeping the workplace safe for their return. But how do you know if your physical workspace is ready? Eden Health recently published Returning to Work Safely, a detailed guide to help prepare your workplace — and workforce — to reopen. Eden’s own clinicians created these guidelines based on their experiences with patients as well as medically validated research from the CDC and WHO. In this blog post, we will highlight the document’s six main steps along with some useful tips to help you get started.
Step 1: Create a COVID-19 Task Force
Your company will need a team of experts capable of creating sound strategies and implementing them quickly. We suggest you choose employees to form a COVID-19 task force that can plan and coordinate your company’s response to the varying state of the pandemic.
When creating your task force, you should consider:
- How your task force should function
- What your task force is responsible for
- Ways to diversify your task force with cross-functional team members of all backgrounds and statuses
Step 2: Create Screening and Active Monitoring Protocols for Employees
To ensure the continued health of your employee population, you should begin monitoring the current health status of your workforce for COVID-19 risks and symptoms. As you implement a robust screening and active monitoring process for employees, we recommend taking the following actions:
- Educating employees on preventive measures and common concerns
- Monitoring employee temperature checks
- Creating an electronic screener to evaluate employee symptoms and exposure risk
- Providing mental health support and screening
- Developing a process for identifying and isolating suspected cases
Step 3: Assess Risk and Create Workplace Protocols
The next step towards reopening involves reconfiguring your office layout and implementing new cleaning protocols. Start by consulting the federal, state, county, and city government websites for current regulations and guidelines.
Your protocols should be built based on the potential risks in your workplace around exposure to COVID-19. To assess exposure risk, do the following:
- Evaluate the exposure risk for each department
- Identify exposure risk in workspaces and common areas
- Reduce exposure to high-touch surfaces and employee interaction
As you reconfigure your workplace, we recommend you do the following:
- De-densify, using methods to physically separate employees
- Streamline visitor management and limit visitors
- Define the frequency and depth of disinfecting procedures
Step 4: Establish Codes of Conduct & Best Practices for Employees to Follow
The next step in reopening your business is more psychological than physical, requiring a change in company culture. Employees must take the new procedures seriously and not only care for themselves but also look out for the safety of their colleagues. Sowing the seeds of compassion within a workforce is not an easy task, but it is an important one.
If appropriate to your company culture, consider drafting a literal “social contract” detailing expectations towards employees’ respect and concern for each others’ health and wellbeing. The contract should include requirements around personal protective equipment when in and around the office.
Step 5: Implement a Vaccine Roll-Out Plan
We know that widespread adherence to the COVID-19 vaccine will be crucial to fighting transmission of the virus and keeping your employees healthy. If you choose to implement a vaccine plan for your workforce, you should first:
- Be aware of the important exceptions you may be asked to accommodate
- Understand the relevance of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Review the guidance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- Have a strategy in place that encourages your employees to receive the vaccine when they're eligible
Step 6: Create a Communication Plan
Letting your workforce know that these protocols have been implemented enables employee compliance and provides peace of mind. Your communication plan should integrate the following:
- Strategies for reaching all employees with important updates
- Guidelines around business travel and working from home
- Non-traditional communication methods such as text messages and voicemails
- Frequency of communication in regards to your specific workplace protocols
COVID-19 is one of the most complex problems the world has yet faced — there are no easy answers, and the most appropriate approaches are highly nuanced. We hope you have found this information helpful as you devise your own plans to reopen your workplace.
For our complete set of detailed guidelines on preparing your workplace, download our free Returning to Work Safely document.