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Posted by Jenna Peabody on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 @ 03:45 PM


While it is unclear how long COVID-19 will continue to affect businesses, it is important to have your return-to-work plan prepared now so that you can safely and successfully resume operations and bring employees back to the workplace.

Plan Elements

While you will likely need to tailor your organization’s return-to-work plan to your employee population’s unique needs, there are several elements that all plans should incorporate, including:

Anticipated Return Date – It’s important to give clear information and dates as to when employees are to return to the workplace. Be sure to be flexible with your dates, though, as local and state orders are frequently updated.

Disinfecting & Cleaning Protocols – A few best practices include:

  • Clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, light switches, handrails and doorknobs
  • Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other tools and equipment. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
  • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down by employees before and after each use
  • Provide hand sanitizer

ocial Distancing Protocol – Some best practices for businesses include:

  • Instruct employees to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others
  • Host meetings virtually
  • Limit the number of people in the workplace to essential personnel only, or schedule rotating office hours
  • Discourage employees from shaking hands

Employee Screening Procedures
 – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) permits employers to measure employees’ body temperatures before allowing them to enter the workplace. Be sure to notify employees ahead of time that you will be screening them to avoid any surprises. Employee screening should be implemented on a nondiscriminatory basis, and all information collected should be treated as confidential medical information under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Safety Training – Train all employees to ensure they understand how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Topics should include:

  • Respiratory Etiquette & Hand Hygiene
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • COVID-19 Symptoms
  • Knowing When to Stay Home

Mental Health Considerations
 – The pandemic has increased stress levels across the country. It’s important that your return-to-work plan includes guidance for managing and treating employee mental health concerns.

Process for Individual Requests – The challenges employees face when returning to work will vary from person to person. Therefore, your plan should include a process for employees who make individual requests for their return-to-work plan. Some may have underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk of severe illness, meaning they may not be able to safely return to the workplace. Others may be facing childcare challenges due to school and daycare closures. These are just two examples of situations that you may be asked to accommodate. If you have a standard process in place, these requests will be easier to handle.

Common Challenges

Some of the most common return-to-work challenges that you should prepare for include:

Changed Employee Priorities – If your employees worked from home during the pandemic, they may want or need to continue to do so once the worksite is reopened. Be prepared for increased work-from-home requests; you may need to expand your pre-COVID-19 policies to meet this demand. In addition, prospective employees may ask about this benefit when searching for a job. To remain competitive for top talent, you may want to consider making this option available even post-COVID.

Office Layout – Due to social distancing protocols and heightened employee concern about health and safety, your organization may need to reconfigure the office layout. Use this checklist as a guide when evaluating changes to your office.

Evolving Rules & Regulations – Due to the nature of COVID-19, rules and regulations are constantly changing. Be sure to monitor them regularly and be prepared to change your business practices as needed.

Continued Safety

Contact your local risk and insurance professional or member of our team to learn what actions your business should take to plan for a safe and seamless return to work.

Note: This article should be used for informational purposes only and should not supersede applicable state or local guidance. Additionally, please review any workplace-specific considerations, which could be more involved depending on the industry you operate in, when drafting your return-to-work plan.

Looking for more COVID-19 resources? Visit our resource center for expertise on impacts to expect and how your business can respond.



Copyright © 2021 CBIZ & MHM (Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C.). All rights reserved. CBIZ and MHM are separate and independent legal entities that work together to serve clients. CBIZ  is a leading provider of tax and consulting services. MHM is an independent CPA firm providing audit and other attest services. This article is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws and treaties. Use of the material contained herein without the express written consent of the firms is prohibited by law. Material contained in this alert is informational and promotional in nature and not intended to be specific financial, tax or consulting advice. Readers are advised to seek professional consultation regarding circumstances affecting their business.

Tags: Business owners, employees, COVID-19, remote work, social distancing, guide, safety, mental health, operations, return to work, tips, office layout

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