May 11th, 2020

When It’s Time to Go Back: A Simple Guide to Help Workplaces Re-open in the Wake of COVID-19

Though the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, many businesses will soon have to face—if they’re not facing it already—what it will look like to go back to the office. Workplace re-entry brings up some tough questions that need clear answers, not the least of which is how to keep everyone safe in the process.

What isn’t needed is a long, complex prescription for re-opening. Business owners have enough on their plate at this challenging time without wading into a lengthy guideline that may be too difficult or time-consuming to follow effectively. If you’re a business owner, you need to know what your particular obligations are and what actionable steps to take to ensure that workplace re-entry happens as smoothly and pain-free as possible.

But before you can take those steps, it’s helpful to clarify what your situation is upfront.

Navigating the choices and decisions you need to make

With increasing economic pressure to re-open, the first question you and many other businesses may be asking is:

Should your business re-open?

The simplest answer is that if you can continue to operate remotely, then do so. But for some businesses this may not be an option. Or there may be a combination of employees who are reluctant to return and employees who are more than ready to come back—both which have to be considered in your re-entry strategy.

Along those same lines is another question:

Who are you going to bring back?

Depending on what the local mandates are, you may be limited for a time in the number of staff who can physically be at the workplace. If your business isn’t broadly compatible with remote working, you may also have to decide who can return to the workplace and who won’t be able to for awhile longer. Asking employees to return who are at a lower health risk or those who are able and willing may make the most sense, initially.

You may also be wondering:

Who are you going to bring back? How should you reintegrate furloughed and laid off workers?

If you had to furlough or lay off a portion of your workforce, bringing back furloughed workers first is a good idea since they are still attached to your business as an employee, albeit with reduced hours or pay. If you decide to re-hire laid off workers—those who were actually separated from your business—you may have to go through a scaled-down re-hiring process which could potentially include a new offer letter and hire date.

A straightforward way to make re-opening easier

In addition to the questions above, there are a host of other considerations around workplace re-entry, such as:

  • How benefits and compensation plans might need to change
  • What updates need to be made to workplace policies
  • How workers’ compensation applies during the continuing health crisis
  • What PPE will be required or provided, or if health screenings will be necessary
  • How workplace layout may need to be adjusted to account for social distancing

But you don’t have to figure these out on your own.

With a simple and straightforward template for re-entry that takes into account safety policies and procedures and can be customized to your specific needs, you can re-open your workplace with more confidence and less confusion while helping your employees feel safe and well cared for as you enter a new phase of work together.

Download the template here.

How Obsidian HR can help

If you need further support, an HR partner like Obsidian HR can help you make sure you’re staying compliant with all changing laws and regulations and treating your employees fairly every step of the way, and can also help you come up with a long-term plan for workplace recovery.

For more information about how an HR partner can help you navigate workplace re-entry, watch the on-webinar or contact Obsidian HR at [email protected].

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