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Getting Back Out There: A Guide to Reopening Businesses and Returning to Work


Economies don’t open just because government officials say they can. They reopen when employees feel safe enough to conduct business as usual. It’s possible many of your employees are not there yet.  With the pandemic still a threat, people across the country are trying to determine the proper timing to reopen businesses. Unfortunately, the information out right now is pretty confusing. What can we do? What should we avoid? What are others doing or not doing? It is important to find out the facts before reopening businesses and returning to work. Here are some things to consider:

Preparing to Go Back into the Workplace

What is expected and what will be required (e.g., facemasks, gloves, and face shields)? Each company will have to abide by the appropriate official state guidelines for their particular type of business, so all employees will need to be aware of them. Not all information will be available immediately upon reopening so as each phase occurs, employees should be trained properly on new guidelines. No matter what, everyone should be conscientious about what they do, in and out of the workplace. It’s difficult to change old habits – especially for those who like to give handshakes or hugs. But, air hugs and handshakes are just as nice.

Best Practices for Both Employers and Employees

From usage guidelines, rules about interfacing with the public, desk arrangements, and staggering staff time in the office, employers have plenty to think about before reopening their workplaces. To prepare, employers can start by sanitizing all work surfaces and plotting out new sanitation procedures. It’s important to consider and plan out new rules for each space. For example, the number of conference and common rooms should be limited; in fact, it’s best to limit the number of on-site conference meetings to reduce direct contact.

No matter what new plans are crafted, it’s important to stay up to date and communicate. Utilizing the resources available in the marketplace, or investing in new tools such as contact tracing tools, video conferencing, educational workshops, and updated training materials is a wise move. More than ever, employees will look to their employer for instruction and training. When communicating with others, be thoughtful and remember that not everyone is going to have the same pandemic concern level.

What to Do if an Employee Tests Positive

Employers should be prepared in the event an employee tests positive. By doing this, they can offer guidance on resources and next steps so that employees feel respected and supported during this time. They should also remain empathetic and helpful to mental and physical health needs of their staff.

Any employee who tests positive for COVID-19 must selfquarantine. The infected employee needs to go home immediately to self-isolate, and not return to work for at least 14 days. Employers need to document the occurrence and take all necessary action to communicate with other staff members to ensure their continued safety. Many employees who deal with the public will be required to wear a mask, so verify and follow your company’s guidelines. Employers must consult CDC guidelines before that employee ends home quarantine and returns to work.

A Word of Advice from Human Resource Gurus

Communication will be key. As information becomes available, employers should communicate with their employees as clearly, concisely, and quickly as possible — period. Not everyone is going to be completely happy with the new procedures and policies. There will be educational resources, work from home strategies, metrics, online handbooks, and training workshops. Everyone should remain focused on employee and customer health, safety practices, and continue to be productive. Don’t forget to be patient, use good judgement, and respect others. No matter what, be empathetic, professional and share your concerns.