With employees beginning to return to the office during the coronavirus pandemic, there’s significant concern about what the new workplace may look like. There are questions about how flexible and responsive employers may be with the office setup, maintenance of evolving health and safety standards, and approval of time off. Because bringing employees back to the work environment is both fluid and dynamic, your company needs a clear plan and 100% participation in guidelines to ensure everyone feels as safe as possible.
Follow these best practices to handle employees and candidates as your office begins to reopen.
Reopen the Office in Phases
It’s in everyone’s best interest that you stagger the timeline for employees to return to the office. After all, you want to limit the potential for COVID-19 transmission among your team members. This means you need to ensure the proper health and safety protocols are in place and effective for a smaller group before increasing the number of people present. In addition, consider having teams work in the office during alternating days or weeks to better manage the workspaces.
Create Health and Safety Protocols
Include policies to maintain a safe and healthy work environment and communicate them frequently. For instance, when employees come to the office, make sure they self-report whether they have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, whether they have specific symptoms related to COVID-19, and whether they’ve had more than 10 minutes of contact with someone confirmed to have the coronavirus. Anyone answering “yes” to a question should be sent home. Also, display markings or signs reminding everyone to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others at all times. Be sure that furniture in the workspaces, break room, and conference room is at least 6 feet apart and ensure employees follow guidelines for mask-wearing.
Address Mental Health Concerns
Proactively handle the mental health concerns that employees may have about returning to the office. For instance, be transparent about the steps taken to protect everyone from COVID-19. Also, allow additional breaks and PTO for team members to deal with stress and concerns related to the coronavirus. Additionally, provide employee assistance plans with access to mental health professionals who provide counseling and can recommend local professionals for continued treatment.
Modify Your Recruitment Process
Change the way you screen and interview candidates and onboard new hires. For instance, opt for phone or video interviews rather than in-person meetings. If you have to physically meet candidates, consider limiting them to a specific area of the office that is sanitized before and after the interview. Be sure you require candidates to wear a mask or face covering and follow social distancing rules. Also, have new hires electronically complete, sign, and send employment documents. Further, virtually onboard new hires to get them acclimated to their role and company culture.
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