Living through a pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges that we have all had to face. In the process of navigating our way through the new normal and in order for companies to resume business as usual, they have had to make some changes. These changes have now become the new norm and the way of living daily life.
For many businesses to keep the operations going while minimizing risk to employees, they have had to adopt new ways of working. Which have included working from home, social distancing, and shift changes.
As employees return to the workplace, you will need a well laid out strategy to make sure your employees feel safe and secure in the work area. Read on to learn how and when to return to the workplace.
When Can You Return to the Workplace?
As businesses are planning and getting ready for the new year, the big question that leaves uncertainty for many, is when people will be able to return to work? As many states are now slowly reopening, how and when the employees can return back is still a big debate and a top priority for many companies. The Covid-19 pandemic is still happening rapidly. And as an employer, you should always monitor your region’s status to determine if it is safe for employees to return to work.
Are There Guidelines to Follow?
There are no uniform guidelines to rely upon when it comes to states reopening because the rate of COVID-19 spread has no relation to regional or geographical areas. Every state has its own lockdown measures and restrictions for reopening. There are also different procedures in place for lifting these measures that have been put in place to fight the pandemic. The chart linked HERE has the updated lists of states eligible for reopening. It is the responsibility of both the employee and employer to follow the guidelines given by the government.
Employers should remember that it is important to review each order along with the detailed instructions for reopening to make sure you know all of the requirements and how they may impact your business operations and employees. If you are eligible to reopen, establish a plan for returning to work that follows OSHA and CDC guidelines for reopening the workplace
Who Can Return to the Workplace?
As much as employers and employees may be ready to return to work, they still have to follow the state orders and guidelines for when people can return to the office. Depending on a company’s nature, some roles traditionally require face-to-face interaction. Other businesses may rely on the onsite tools, technology, and other essential roles. Management teams are responsible for determining and identifying who really needs to be back in the office and when it is safe to do so.
During the lockdown, most people had no choice and were forced to work from home. An analysis of which roles transitioned smoothly to remote working and which didn’t can help inform decisions about when employees should be asked to return to the workplace.
What You Need to Know Before Returning to the Workplace
When you and your employees return to the workplace remember you can reduce the risk of infection by following these key guidelines:
- When you return to work, you need to continue protecting yourself by following the everyday preventive actions.
- Try and reduce long interaction with others. The more closely you work with others and the longer the interaction, the higher the risk of COVID19 spread.
- Keep your mask, tissues, and hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol ) close on hand.
- Continue to social distance, maintain a distance of at least 6ft between you and others.
Returning to Work: Ensuring Safety
The health and safety of the people should be management’s top priority. Here are some tips on what you can do to minimize the risk to employees when returning to the workplace.
Establish New Protocols and Procedures
As employees return to work, they need to feel safe in their working environment. Include measures that will reduce exposure to coronaviruses and implement strategies that will prevent and reduce transmission among employees. Some of the approaches you may take include:
- New protocols for deep cleaning
- Sanitizing the workspace
- Remote work options
- Alternate shifts for different teams
- Allocate spaces and tools to discourage sharing
- Promote the use of seamless technology
Prioritize Employee Safety and Well Being
Once you reopen the offices and facilities, as management, you need to make sure that the spaces are physically safe and health-conscious. Make sure the ventilation of the rooms and the whole space function correctly and allows clean air to flow. Adjust your office to reduce cross-contamination by adding sensors and non-touch technology indoors, such as elevators, adjustable tables, and others.
Establish guidelines for the use of personal protective equipment. Such as face masks and gloves, and checking employees and visitors for a high temperature before they enter the workplace. Promote hygienic measures by putting visible reminders to wash hands, give out hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes. Also, establishing rules governing when employees can return to work after recovering from an infection.
Take Action When You Suspect or Confirm a COVI19 Case
In most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility. If it has been less than seven days since the sick employee has been in the facility, close off any areas used for prolonged periods by the infected person. Encourage employees to follow any new policies or procedures related to illness such as cleaning and disinfecting, work meetings, and travel. If feasible, offer employees incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others (e.g., biking, walking, driving, or riding by car either alone or with household members).
Does the Workforce Want to Return to Work?
According to an ESG survey, it was found that 36% of workers who are “extremely concerned” about their personal health and safety due to Covid-19 would prefer to return to the office. Compared to 49% of respondents who are “not that concerned” or “not concerned at all” with their personal health risk. And 57% to 64% would like to increase their level of remote work in the future.
Are You Planning to Return to the Workplace?
If you are one of the people who will be returning to work this new year, you may be wondering how you can protect yourself amidst this pandemic. Companies should have steps implemented to help ease employees way back into the office environment. This section gives you some tips on what you can do as preparation for the return to the office.
One of the key factors for a company’s success is communication. Make sure you understand all of the plans made by the company for the return to the workplace. Also, familiarize yourself with what safety precautions have been put in place. Maintain a good and clear communication channel to always be in contact with your coworkers.
One thing that we have all benefited from by working from home is effective communication skills. Continue to use those skills when you return to work to get in touch with your teammates and managers quickly.
Practice Good Hygiene
Don’t stop practicing good hygiene routines when you go back to work. If anything, you need to reinforce them even more. Make an effort to ensure you have well-stocked washrooms with soaps, sanitizers, wipes, and hands-free dispensers. You should always keep yourself and others safe by following guidelines to wash your hands as much as possible. You should also bring hand sanitizer with you to use when you are outside of office areas. It is advised to keep hand sanitizer on your desk so that it is within reach throughout the day for use if needed. If the employer requires you to wear masks and gloves, you should do that also.
Cultivate Positive Attitude
In general, having a positive attitude will help you and others feel better. Being positive will help you to cope more easily in the new settings of your work environment. Your attitude will affect others, so retaining a calm mindset will help the office remain optimistic and hopeful. Take charge of your emotions and allow yourself to be anxious and sad when needed, and continue to do your best to cultivate a positive attitude.
Here are some tips to help you improve your positive mindset:
- Start your day with a positive routine. Morning routines are an important way to begin the day. Don’t reach for your phone as soon as you awake. Checking the news first thing can put a dark cloud over the rest of the day. Instead, start the day with some gentle breathing, meditation, and a smile. Starting your day in this way will help you positively start the day!
- Slow down. Don’t rush into things. There is no need to hurry right now. Pace yourself and let go of your anxiety and stress. Learn to remain present and focus on your surroundings, the sights, sounds, and smells. Practice mindfulness and listen to your inner voice.
- Practice gratefulness. Keep a gratefulness journal or do a quick morning gratefulness meditation. List the things, no matter how small, that you are thankful for—for example, family friends, good health. Even include momentary pleasures such as a bubble bath, a hot cup of coffee in the morning.
- Relax your body. Take some time to relax your muscles, stop tensing your jaw, and shoulders. Let go, breathe and relax. Do this throughout the day to ensure that the tension doesn’t build back up in your body again.
- Practice breathing. Breathing is a great meditation exercise. Take some time out for yourself, focus on your breathing. This will help reduce heart rate, stress levels and will help you relax.
- Exercise. Exercise is a great way to improve your mindset as it releases endorphins in your body. These endorphins trigger positive feelings.
- Incorporate humor into your day. Laughter is good for the soul. It is one of the best ways to improve your mindset and increase positivity. As they say, laughter is the best medicine.
Get Back into a Routine
When the pandemic happened, many were forced to throw their routines to the curb. Maybe you started having later bedtimes, unhealthy eating habits, working from home, waking up late, and struggled to keep your schedule. As you approach a new milestone of getting back to work, it is a good idea to start getting you and your family back into a routine.
Be Open to New Ways of Working
Since working from home as much as we have, you may have developed some new habits and routines. We have been forced to rediscover new ways to live and work. Now, more than ever, we collaborate virtually and have found ways to improve communication and workflow. We should embrace these changes and let them flourish.
One thing for sure is that what we knew as “normal” may never be that way again. Workplaces and workers have evolved immensely since last March. Going back to the office will be a new experience. Companies will need to implement permanent new policies and operating procedures. Whether you are returning to work or not, we have all learned new habits to be more productive and effective. Which is an opportunity for businesses and employees to grow.
We’re in This Together
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