Bringing employees back to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been a fluid situation for just about every employer. More than a year into the pandemic, many employees are still working from home, whereas others—particularly those working in healthcare, manufacturing and retail—had only a short pause or never stopped working on-site.
In a recent LaSalle Network survey, 74 percent of businesses said they planned to bring employees back to the office by fall 2021. Many others, concerned about the rising cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant throughout the country, have pushed back return-to-work plans into early 2022.
Regardless of when you plan to bring your employees back to work, there are some actions you should take to ensure your workplace and employees are prepared. Follow the tips below to ensure you’ve covered all your bases:
1. Implement Thorough Health and Safety Protocols
Supporting the well-being of your workforce takes on new meaning during a pandemic. To prevent the spread of illness in the workplace, be sure to create sanitation guidelines and effectively communicate them to employees. Critical actions include the following:
- Stay up to date on the workplace health and safety guidance offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
- Follow a detailed cleaning and disinfecting plan, and keep an ample supply of wipes, hand sanitizer and tissues for employee use.
- Avoid the spread of germs on shared surfaces, using items like a touchless time clock that each worker can activate using an identification badge.
- Educate employees about best practices in workplace safety, including washing hands, social distancing and wearing face masks.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as extra masks, gloves or other items necessary in your workplace.
2. Communicate with Employees Before and After They Return to Work
Because employees will be returning to work under very different circumstances than when they left, you will need frequent communication about policy changes and new processes designed to support employee health, safety and productivity. You can boost communication through the following actions:
- Provide notice of the anticipated return-to-work date and advise employees of any schedule or shift changes.
- Create procedures for notifying employees about possible COVID-19 exposure and reporting illness.
- Provide employees with frequent reminders about applicable requirements, such as wearing masks, getting vaccinated or undergoing testing.
- Give managers guidance and training to facilitate fruitful communication with employees about their return to work.
- Communicate your organization’s stance on vaccination, including any extra testing requirements for unvaccinated employees.
3. Identify Solutions to Minimize Workplace Risks
The spread of illness exponentially increases the more people you have together in one place, so you can prepare by evaluating potential “what-if” scenarios and how to address them. After all, you will need to prepare for the possibility of another surge, variant or location-specific emergency that could affect work operations. To ensure you’re prepared for the potential risks associated with having employees on-site, consider the following actions:
- Create flexible work schedules that help you limit and track the number of employees in the workplace.
- Determine the number of people that can occupy common areas such as break rooms and conference rooms, and post maximum-occupancy signs where needed.
- Avoid long lines at the time clock with a mobile time clock employees can use on their devices.
- Monitor employee absence trends and plan to move back to remote work if widespread illness occurs among the workforce.
4. Evaluate Your Workplace Technology Portfolio
As you plan to return employees to work, there is a chance you will have some employees who will continue a remote work schedule some or all of the time. In fact, a 2021 Salary.com survey found that 51 percent of employers support a hybrid work model. To ensure employees have access to the technology they need to remain productive in any location, take the following actions:
- Ensure both remote and on-site employees have access to automated tools to request time off, call in sick, and provide notification of COVID-19 symptoms from any device.
- Enable employee temperature scanning during clock-in with, for example, a thermal sensor time clock.
- Leverage labor tracking and costing tools that track employee productivity against project timelines and budgets.
Returning employees to work requires more planning than ever before. To keep all your employees productive and safe, it is critical to have workforce management tools that help you schedule workers and manage their time and attendance, whether they are on-site or working remotely.
Today’s time and attendance technology not only provides tools for managing schedules and absences, but also features mobile solutions to help you implement critical health and safety measures. For more insights, download our resource, “How Contact Tracing Helps Get Employees Back To Work Safely.”