As cities and governments contemplate lifting shelter-in-place and workplace restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, companies need to prepare for workforce reentry, considering state-by-state requirements, the safety of employees and customers, and home-life differences that call for leniency.
Though plans for business reopening are inherently unique to each workplace, employers that take informed precautions and proactively address challenges will be best positioned to ease their workforce into a new normal as the world adapts to the circumstances.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) released guidance to assist employers in making decisions about resuming business operations during the pandemic. The CDC noted the importance of making choices that protect the business’s vulnerable workers.
From staying in compliance with state and local orders to ensuring that recommended safety actions are in place and that ongoing monitoring is established, employers are being asked to meet these safeguards and carefully assess their workplaces before considering reopening business.
Key recommendations include:
• Ensuring the ability to protect employees at higher risk.
• Intensifying cleaning and disinfection.
• Restricting use of shared items and spaces.
• Establishing regular health checks.
• Creating an action plan for COVID-19 response.
• Communicating with health officials.
The following resources and guidelines can help employers determine new workplace practices and if their business should consider reopening:
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guidance to support state, local and industry partners in identifying critical infrastructure sectors and essential workers.
• From the White House: Guidelines for Opening America Again
Guidance from the White House provided to support the reopening of communities, including criteria to determine preparedness and measurements States should enact to ensure the safety and well-being of Americans.
• From the CDC: Support for States, Tribes, Localities and Territories
A comprehensive repository of guidelines, tools, and resources from CDC and others for states, tribes, localities, and territories.
CDC guidelines on steps to properly clean and disinfect public and home spaces.
OSHA recommendations and descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards to educate the workforce and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
CDC’s recommended clinical testing guidelines.
CDC’s strategies that are in place for COVID-19 testing.
Wiley’s overview of legal obligations and best practices to consider before and after reopening, and into the future.
As the world continues to combat the pandemic, it is important for employers to recognize and minimize the risks of exposure to the virus for their employees.
Whether the new work week means continued telework, staggered working hours or alternating teams, pre-planned and effective scheduling can maintain social distancing measures and keep employees as safe as possible.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid leave for reasons related to COVID-19. Employers may also consider offering modified leave policies and creating a more comforting work environment, particularly for working parents or caregivers.
For essential workers and those who must return to physical office spaces, guidance is available for communities to operate safely and maintain steps to mitigate the threat and spread of COVID-19.
• From the CDC: Community Mitigation Framework
CDC’s recommended activities that people and communities can take to slow the spread of COVID-19.
• From the IRS: Coronavirus Tax Relief for Businesses and Tax-Exempt Entities
Tax relief options from the IRS for businesses and tax-exempt entities.
Employees may have concerns about returning to work and how employers are keeping safety in mind.
By maintaining transparency with employees about plans for workplace health and safety, including physical workplace changes, employers can help alleviate doubts and concerns.
Encourage employees to raise questions or concerns. This allows the staff to face challenges and define what’s right for the company together. Keep those who are part of the business included in the conversation.
Build transparency and trust in the workplace through open communication.
Stress, anxiety and other mental well-being concerns may have been exacerbated by extended coronavirus worries and may continue. In these times, Employee Assistance Programs and open-door support systems — even virtual coffee chats — help those who may need comfort and resources.
It’s important to recognize that as we return to work, many may be returning as new caregivers, under new financial pressures, or in periods of fear or mourning. Be compassionate to one another and establish or remind employees of available and confidential resources should they need it.
Make mental health and well-being a priority for employees and employers alike.
New guidance and resources are issued frequently as we move through a continuously evolving time. Visit our CTA Member Resources page for updated insights and best practices, links to government resources, and the latest research that can help you as you make critical business decisions.
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA)® 21st Century Workforce Council is convening each Friday of May for an open member forum to discuss challenges and best practices of workplace reentry.