A woman wearing a mask heads into her office building. A woman wearing a mask heads into her office building.

Coronavirus: Supporting employees returning to the workplace

Deciding to return to the office can be difficult. Many employees have been working from home since March 2020, and now some companies are asking them to return to their workplace and back to daily office activities. Employees and employers returning to the workplace should do so safely, with every precaution taken.

These precautions include how the office prepares for employees and how and when employees can return.

It’s important that your company follows the most up-to-date guidelines for returning to the office. With health news changing daily, it’s critical that you know the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Visit the CDC siteOpens in new window for the most current and factual information.

The CDC provides several steps that you as an employer can take to prepare for your employee’s return, help keep your team safe and stop the spread of COVID-19.1 When preparing, keep in mind that the decisions you make should be specific to your workplace. Identify all areas and job tasks and create measures to eliminate or reduce exposure.

CDC guidelines on returning to work

Here are some of the important guidelines for work return provided by the CDC:2

  • Stagger employee desks or cubicles, so there is more space between workers.
  • Close or prohibit the use of conference rooms, so teams are not holding meetings with several people in an enclosed room.
  • Carry out a staggered schedule, so only some team members or employees work from the office at a specific time or day of the week.
  • Check the ventilation system to make sure it’s operating properly; consider adding more filters and updating current filters.
  • Create a policy for how vendors, delivery staff and visitors should enter your building, where they are allowed to go and where they are prohibited.
  • Implement daily, in-person health checks, including temperature checks.
  • Clean high-touch areas daily, especially for places like elevators and escalators.

For a full list of all their guidelines, please visit the CDC siteOpens in new window.

Policy changes and COVID-19

The policies you have in place for your day-to-day business operations may need to be revisited and updated. The way employees worked, and the policies companies had before COVID-19 may not be effective now. Review these policy considerations:

  • Ensure your sick leave policy is flexible, non-punitive and consistent with public health guidelines.
  • Maintain or create policies that allow employees to stay at home to care for sick family members.
  • If you don’t have a sick leave policy, consider creating a non-punitive emergency sick leave policy.
  • Review your Employee Assistance Program resources and connect your employees with them as they may need additional social, mental and health services.
  • For employees at higher risk for illness or who may have underlying medical conditions, consider supporting telework or making accommodations to further minimize their contact with other employees or clients.3

Employees returning to the workplace

Employers can encourage employees to take their own precautions when returning to the workplace. Employees should only return to the office if they are healthy, fever-free and symptom-free. Likewise, they shouldn’t return to the office if they have been exposed to or think they have been exposed to COVID-19. In general, they should also avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.

When considering policies related to commuting and transportation, keep in mind that employee transportation modes vary. Some drive their cars, some carpool and others take public transit, bike or walk. Provide information about how to stay safe across these transportation options.

Communication about COVID preparedness

It’s important that your employees feel safe returning to the workplace. They need to learn and feel confident about all the ways you have prepared the office for their return. When communicating how you’ve prepared, include management, utility employees, relief employees, janitorial staff and maintenance staff in the communication distribution planning.

Communication should be clear and simple. It should be updated with timely information. Topics should include the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, social distancing rules, policies for mask usage, hand hygiene practices and tips for minimizing transmission at work and home.4 Provide information on updated sick policies and what employees should do if they start to feel ill.

Share information in several places, including newsletters, bulletin boards, emails and intranet sites. Place signage, collateral and video messages in common places in the building where people walk by or gather around, and health and well-being reminders during town hall meetings. Encourage management to communicate often with their employees about COVID-19 safety in one-on-ones and team meetings.

Before you have your team return to the office, be sure to follow CDC guidelines on how you can prepare for a safe return. Stay updated on changes to those recommendations and communicate any updates or changes to them.

Learn how Go365® supports employees’ health and well-being, including robust communications about COVID-19 health and hygiene practices. Contact your Humana sales rep or request more information about Go365’s wellness program by filling out this formOpens in new window.

Go365 is not an insurance product and is not available with all Humana health plans. This is a general description of services which are subject to change. Product features may vary by client. Please refer to Customer Support for more information.

This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical or other professional advice or used in place of consulting a licensed professional. You should consult with your doctor to determine what is right for you.

Links to various other websites from this site are provided for your convenience only and do not constitute or imply endorsement by Humana, Inc. or its subsidiaries of these sites, any products, views, or services described on these sites, or of any other material contained therein. Humana disclaims responsibility for their content and accuracy.

Sources:

1 “Guidance for Business and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019,”Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed July 29, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html Opens in new window.

2 “COVID-19 Employer Information for Office Buildings,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed July 29, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/office-buildings.html Opens in new window.

3 “Guidance for Business and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019.”

4 “COVID-19 Employer Information for Office Buildings.”

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