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How to Return to Work During Covid-19: Keeping Your Employees Safe

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Table of Contents

COVID-19 cases in the United States continue to create fear and uncertainty. This ambiguity is especially strong in the workplace, as employers are generally unsure about when they can safely bring employees back to their offices. For employees, the idea of returning to work prematurely can be a source of stress and anxiety. Something, somewhere has to give.

Employers everywhere are eager to bring their employees back to work, and many employees are just as eager to return. But what does a safe return to work during COVID-19 look like? And is there such a thing as a safe workplace during COVID-19, or are we destined to be remote for the foreseeable future?

With more than half of workers claiming they’d come to work sick, workplace safety is paramount during a pandemic. Let’s take a look at how you can safely get your workplace up and running again through social distancing and mask use, along with an exciting new tool for tracking workplace wellness.

Is there such a thing as a safe workplace during COVID-19?

While there’s no way to ensure absolute safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can take several steps to minimize risks for your workers. With the right knowledge and precautions, you can help your team stay safe while returning to the office.

Social distancing efforts and stay-at-home orders have helped flatten the curve across the country. This has bought society, scientists, and hospitals valuable time. This time has allowed them to better understand the virus, eased the burden on hospitals, and given employers the knowledge needed to create a safer workplace.

While COVID-19 testing still isn’t where it needs to be, it’s picking up steam and making the task of finding out who has and hasn’t been exposed a little more feasible. Many states have even created drive-thru testing sites, making it easier for people around the country to confirm their status.

With testing or without, both social distancing and masks are important when it comes to keeping people safe. With proper social distancing and mask usage, even those without access to COVID-19 testing can reduce the chances that they’ll spread or contract the disease.

How to implement social distancing in an office

Social distancing, the practice of minimizing human contact and staying at least six feet away from others, has played an integral role in fighting the spread of COVID-19. On top of that, you can quickly and easily implement social distancing in your workplace to reduce the likelihood that your team will be infected and to create a safe return to work during COVID-19.

The following tips can help your staff practice social distancing, create safe new work habits, and give your employees’ some peace of mind — all at little to no cost to your company.

Implement a remote or alternating remote schedule

Examine your team and ask yourself who can do their job from home. If they can work from home, consider letting them stay at home as long as possible. If having someone in the office is helpful but not entirely necessary, you can implement an alternating remote schedule and minimize the number of people in the office.

For example, you could have half of your team in-office Monday and Wednesday, and the other half in on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with Fridays being an all-remote day. This would allow you to still interact with your employees and offer direct feedback where necessary but would reduce the chance of exposure.

Restructure work spaces when possible

Much like a mask, physical barriers can help slow or prevent the spread of COVID-19 particles. If your workplace uses an open-office setup, consider temporarily switching to cubicles. If cubicles aren’t possible, consider the remote tips from above to reduce the number of people in the office at any given time.

If your office already has cubicles set up, you could further prevent the spread of COVID-19 by keeping every other desk empty, if possible. This would further reduce the chance that the virus could spread, and it would encourage more social distancing because people wouldn’t be as likely to lean around a wall divider to chat.

Limit office visitors

Keep office visitors to a minimum. Visitors can pose a unique risk because you can’t be sure of their travel history, previous interactions, and so on. If you don’t need to have external people coming into your office, bar visitation until further notice.

If visitors are a must for your business, on top of limiting the number of visitors, you should also limit how many people at once can be in the waiting area or lobby. Space the chairs out, and post a sign on the door that tells visitors there’s a chance they’ll have to return later or wait outside.

Keep meetings online

Meetings, besides being a notorious time suck, are a great place to swap germs. Try keeping meetings online, even if your office is brimming with workers. Social distancing is difficult, if not impossible, to practice in small meeting rooms. Opting for online meetings allows you to share important info without putting anyone at an increased risk of exposure.

Enforce mask use in enclosed spaces

While many states aren’t legally enforcing mask use, you, as a business, can require that your employees wear masks in the office. Masks reduce the spread of COVID-19, which is especially important if you have a smaller office.

Masks consistently sell out at stores, so it can be difficult to find what you need. Reach out to your employees, and see whether you can organize a volunteer effort to create cloth masks for those unable to find them at stores.

Closely monitor confirmed cases

Testing across the country has been spotty, at best. But it’s still a good idea to keep tabs on the number of confirmed cases in your area. Factor in your city and state’s COVID case count when determining whether you should have employees return to work, allow any visitors, and so on.

If your area is experiencing a large spike in cases, it may be best to keep your team remote as long as possible.

Social distancing can help your team stay safe and can keep your company above water. But you can also take things a step further with proper COVID-19 case tracking.

Monitoring COVID-19 cases, at large and at work

You’ve likely seen the phrase “uncertain times” used a lot lately. These truly are uncertain times — testing continues to be elusive, reopening plans are inconsistent, and businesses everywhere are struggling to determine how and when they can allow their workers to return to their offices.

A safe return to work, COVID-19 aside

COVID-19 should be taken seriously, but the idea of safety isn’t completely out the window. You can keep your employees safe through proper safety measures and diligent tracking.

Nobody knows when this will all be over, but with proper precautions, you can know your employees are as safe as possible. During a time like this, that’s something you can’t put a price on.

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