The Right Time to Bring Employees Back to the Office from Working Remotely
At some point, I will have to tell my employees they will have to stop working from home and return to work. When is that?
This is a scenario that nearly 70% of employers are beginning to face. As the curve begins to shift determining when the right time to safely bring employees back to work and continue with business as usual, is still very uncertain.
Companies deemed essential businesses and/or do not have a restriction in place by the state has no legal obligation to have employees working from home. This decision strictly falls on the employer to decide the right time for employees to return. Here are some things to consider:
COVID-19 Return to Work Checklist – Free Resource
Follow this checklist to cover your basis when having employees return to work.
Close Monitoring of COVID-19
Employers should closely monitor confirmed cases in the county that the company is located as well as the surrounding counties. Geographical locations will play a big role in the determining factor for employees to have employees return back to work. If your office is in a large city like New York or Charlotte it will most likely be a later return than a more local or rural office location.
Phased/Staggered Approach for Employee Return
As you are developing your plan to have remote employees return back to work, consider a phased approach for their return. Here are some ways to do this:
- Rather than have all employees return at the same time, have each department start by week. Prioritize by department size or importance.
- Alternate the employees that are in the office – have certain employees in on certain days to limit the number of people in the office. You can also have certain employees come into the office during the morning and the other group in the afternoon. When they aren’t in the office they should be working from home.
- Only have employees come into work one day a week to start and gradually increase days overtime.
COVID-19 Workplace Safety & Tips
It is exceptionally important to prepare your workplace to keep employees safe as they return to work. Taking the proper precautions and following the mandated guidelines from the CDC will be crucial to preventing the additional spread and having employees feel safe while at work.
- Keep meetings virtual even if your employees are in the office to avoid congregating in single conference rooms.
- Assign safety roles to each employee. Some to consider are wiping door handles multiple times a day and cleaning kitchen area (fridge handles, coffee handle, etc). Here are additional precautions you can assign.
- Close conference rooms and gathering areas completely.
- If you have a multi-stall bathroom, only allow one person in there at a time.
Your employees are still very sensitive to COVID-19 and most will have apprehensions about returning to work. Many employees have been isolated for weeks and are focused on protecting both themselves and their family and/or roommates. Be as open as possible with your employees and let them know your plan, what measures you are taking to protect them, and answer any questions they have.
Before reopening here are some ways you can better communicate with your employees:
- Send them this Welcome Back letter.
- Call them before reopening and talk to them each one-on-one. This will go a long way in them understanding your reasoning why returning to the office is right at that time.
- After their first days back in the office, email each employee or have department managers email their employees and ask them how their experience is so far, what recommendations they have and the positives they have seen.
- Before the first day, ask them what they will need as they return. Will they feel more comfortable with a mask, do they need hand sanitizer? These items can be purchased and provided for them or you can reimburse them for these items.
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