As companies return to work, there are five key things employers need to keep in mind to ensure the health and safety of their employees.
Conditions In Your Area
When determining how to safely return to work, key metrics can help you know the conditions in your area. These metrics can include your area’s current infection rate, number of cases, and any regulations enforced by your state or local governments. Understanding the current risk of infection can help you make informed decisions that put the safety and wellness of your employees first. Current regulations vary based on location due to factors that municipalities monitor such as the current infection rate, COVID-related hospitalizations, and current death rate. This data helps local health officials and governments determine the level of risk associated with relaxing regulations.
Businesses with multiple locations should take each location’s conditions into consideration when forming a plan, and clearly communicate if one location’s plan differs from other locations.
Assess Your Employees
According to The Wellbeing Lab’s Workplace Report, nearly 80%of employees do not feel safe about returning to work and 90% feel somewhat satisfied with their current work-from-home setup. Certain employees may prefer to continue a work-from-home schedule for a variety of reasons. Factors employees have to consider when determining if they feel safe returning to the office may include if they’re considered “high risk” according to the CDC, taking public transportation to the office and if they’re caring for a family member that is considered “high risk.” One major factor employees may fear about returning to the office is their risk of being infected with COVID-19 in the workplace. Understanding your employees’ comfort level can help craft a return-to-work strategy that works for everyone and lets your employees know that their safety and health is a priority of the business.
If certain employees would prefer to telework while others want to come into the office, evaluate your company, and find a hybrid solution that works for everyone.
Evaluate Your Company
When planning a return-to-work strategy, it’s important to audit your current software and systems put in place when working from home quickly became the norm. Software such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams help bring companies together even if some employees continue to work from home, but checking that your telework system is sustainable under a hybrid solution can lead to a seamless transition for returning to the office.
The work experience goes beyond just the software and systems used by employees. Making employees feel safe in the workplace can mean moving the office layout to provide safe socially distanced meeting spaces, common areas, and distanced workstations. Installing hand sanitation stations in high traffic areas and providing complimentary face masks to visitors ensure your employees have the tools necessary to stay healthy and limit their exposure in the workplace.
Develop Clear Policies and Procedures
Internal policies regarding return to work need to be concise and applicable to those coming back to the office and those who feel safer working from home. These policies should cover testing requirements, use of face masks in the office, limiting meeting sizes, etc.
Testing protocols should include which test the employees will use (antigen versus PCR), how frequently they’ll be tested, where they’ll be tested, and which information is shared with the employer. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the required testing of employees for COVID-19 is allowable under federal anti-discrimination laws, as long as the testing is “reliable and accurate, and the confidentiality of employees’ medical information is maintained.”
Face masks can help limit the spread of COVID-19, especially in close proximity such as in the workplace. Requiring face masks in your office may be a regulation enforced by your local government, or maybe at the employer’s discretion. Implementing a face mask policy when entering the building, walking around the office, and in meetings can help limit exposure. In addition to wearing masks in the workplace, limiting the occupancy in meeting spaces allows employees to space out and socially distance.
If an employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone with a confirmed case, swift actions can help limit the spread of the virus within your workforce. Knowing who to contact and how long to self-isolate should be clearly communicated to all employees in the event of a positive case. Contact tracing can help identify who all the infected employee interacted with, so they can be notified if they need to self-isolate and get tested as well. From there, employers should notify proper personnel and public health officials if necessary.
Adhering to local regulations and following recommendations from health officials can help limit the spread of the virus within your company and communities. These legal standards can include employee leave, discrimination laws, and data privacy.
According to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, some employers may be required to provide paid leave to workers who have to care for someone in quarantine, take care of a child if their school or child care is closed, or if the worker is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking medical attention.
While the risk of severe symptoms of COVID-19 increases with age, any disciplinary actions or termination of employees based solely on age is prohibited according to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Reviewing the policies can help employers find a solution for workers that may be at a higher risk of severe symptoms.
From testing results to contract tracing, employers need to identify which information is being shared and determine what liability they may face . Adhering to ADA specific regulations and following HIPAA standards can help companies limit their liability. Updating company policies to strictly state which information they will share and with whom also lets the employee know where their data is going.
Staying compliant during these times doesn’t have to be challenging. At ARCpoint Labs, we’re here to help you establish a return to work strategy that works for your company that adheres to safety measures. From our COVID-19 testing solutions to our Return To Work guide, we’re ready to help your company return to work responsibly.