When the pandemic struck, it seemed like business changed overnight – in ways that were unprecedented. Regardless of a company’s size, type, or industry, it is clear that none of us really felt prepared for the sweeping changes that COVID-19 would bring.

Now that more communities are considering easing restrictions on COVID-19-related quarantine, businesses must think about resuming operations as well. The good news is that in many instances, companies will have time to prepare for a return to work – something that wasn’t really an option for us when the quarantine began.

One of the first considerations is your employees. What can you, as an employer, do to help employees through the transition, and make it as easy, productive and seamless as possible. Just remember: there is no clear end date to the current situation – companies must take a phased approach in the Return to Work (RTW) plan, and be sure to be as flexible as possible.

Some things to think about when building a RTW plan include:

Employee preferences will be different

Some employees may not want to return to work right away, even when it is possible to do so. They may be balancing responsibilities outside of work, working outside the commutable area, or simply prefer remote work for the time being. Other employees may be eager to return to a regular work setting, and get back to normal as quickly as possible.

Plan ahead for how you will address each of these situations.  Creating a policy that is flexible enough to accommodate employee needs where possible. Be sure that in any situation where the decision is not to accommodate the employee’s preference, that a valid, logical business reason for the decision is identified and communicated.


Your office practices may need to change

Some office design choices, like open layouts or common eating areas, were made in a different time. Review your layout critically, and evaluate whether it will be possible to maintain the required social distancing in the office. Consider:

  •          Rearranging desks, to put more space between employees working
  •          Reducing conference room capacity
  •          Improving cleaning in shared areas like kitchens and bathrooms

Think of the possibility of changing normal hours of operation, so that employees aren’t forced into using public transportation in large crowds during rush hour. Another option might be to implement shifts or rotate work from home days so that all employees aren’t on site at the same time.

The idea is to provide for the health and safety of employees, but also to consider their comfort. Different people will have different concerns, and their needs may change over time as well. Again, the best thing an employer can do in these circumstances is to be flexible and make accommodations where possible.

For more in-depth information and tips to build a RTW policy, read “How to Create a Solid Return to Work Plan” over at Medium. Or contact us today and leverage our expertise in HR consulting and embedded recruiting to improve results at your company.