The following is one of a 3-part series on human resources and employee considerations in returning to work in the era of COVID-19 by Hera Hub Carlsbad HR & Culture GURU Cheryl St. Cyr. Read on to learn more about how you can schedule a free 30-minute consultation with this experienced HR consultant.

As businesses and employees prepare to return to the office, the most important consideration should be towards communication. Your COVID-19 Communication and Safety Plan is a vital policy to put in place prior to any sort of return to work action. The following is a list of points to talk through with your decision makers as a starting point for plan creation.

First answer the question, “How will the company screen employees for illness?”.

Most employers are choosing to scan employees with a no touch thermometer or present a list of health questions specific to the coronavirus. Whichever method you choose, it is important to detail your procedure to team members:

  • Date the screening practices will begin.
  • Those who will be screened (all company employees).
  • Method of screening.
  • Payment for waiting times (non-exempt employee consideration).
  • Pass or fail criteria and/or results.
  • Procedure if an employee is sent home as a result of the screening.
  • Reminder to employees to stay home if they feel ill or exhibit signs of the virus before coming to work.

Next, detail the company’s action and response plan to the instance that an employee does contract, or exhibit signs of, the virus. The CDC has posted guidance for employers, should one of their team members contract the virus:

  • Separate sick employees from employees, customers, and visitors immediately, and send home as soon as possible.
    • It is recommended to include a contingency procedure for getting the employee home safely. Depending on the severity of the illness, the employee may need to have transportation arranged for them or be sent directly to a healthcare provider. 
  • Disinfect areas where the infected employee has been or touched. If at all possible, restrict occupation of those areas and wait at least 24 hours before disinfecting so those cleaning the areas have a diminished chance of contracting the illness.
    • Follow the CDC cleaning recommendations (more information may be found here).
  • Determine and notify employees who may have been exposed to the illness. “Most workplaces should follow the Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure and instruct potentially exposed employees to stay home for 14 days, telework if possible, and self-monitor for symptoms.
  • Remember to maintain confidentiality when notifying your team of a possible infection.

Note that employers are required to distribute at each public entrance to their place of business copies of the Safe Reopening Plan with the following inclusions:

  • Statements requesting that visitors and employees not enter the building if they are sick.
  • All entering the facilities must wear a mask, maintain at least 6 feet from any and all other persons, and not shake hands or engage in any other physical contact.
  • List contact information for the company’s Safety Coordinator (this doesn’t have to be a standing title, but a current employee or owner to whom customers and employees may bring their questions and concerns).

Address supplies that will be made available to employees, such as:

  • Face masks – disposable or cloth.
  • Gloves.
  • Face shields.
  • Booties.
  • Disinfectant spray.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Hand soap.

Make sure to list the location and check out procedure (if any) of these items in the office. If a cleaning schedule has been established, note the frequency, dates, and/or times. Note that, should employees feel the need to disinfect beyond the regular cleaning schedules, where the supplies are located and what safety protocol is necessary for proper use of the cleaning supplies.

Communicate your proximity restrictions and interoffice social distancing measures. Some guidelines to consider include:

  • Staggering shifts and lunches to ensure minimal gathering in common areas.
  • Ask managers and staff to avoid in-person meetings whenever possible. If in-person meetings are necessary, make sure they commence in a large room where participants are able to keep a minimum 6-foot distance.
  • Allow only essential travel on the company’s behalf (make sure you define what “essential” travel is for your company).
  • Detail the number of people allowed in a room, office, area, or office space at any one time (with the goals of easily maintaining a minimum 6-foot separation between personnel at all times).
  • Rearrange cubicles, desks, or workspaces so they are at least 6-feet apart.
  • For those whose positions may allow full or partial remote work, offer teleworking as an ongoing option or a partial teleworking schedule for maximum separation.

Be sure to address visitors in your plan or policy.

  • Place signs, tape arrows, or post other directional aids to guide clients through the space, so they are more able to keep their distance from other personnel while on site.
  • Limit the number of clients or customers visiting the office at any one time.
  • Create a “company handshake” alternative (like air fives or elbow waves); you can make if a fun and brand-centric practice to better integrate your company culture.
  • Use video conference as opposed to in person meetings wherever possible.
  • Complete the County’s Safe Return Plan and affix to the entrances of your facility. This will not only reassure your clients and staff, but it will also provide an extra reminder of the safety precautions your company is taking to protect your service and team members.
After spending the majority of her professional career as an HR Leader in various startup and non-profit organizations, Cheryl St. Cyr embarked on a new journey as an HR Consultant with a few trusted and talented colleagues – and never looked back! In this new direction, Cheryl has had the opportunity to collaborate with accomplished and brilliant professionals, all working towards the same goal of creating the most efficient business processes possible. Cheryl is obsessed with structure and problem (read: puzzle) solving, and both skills lend themselves well to the world of people culture and human capital compliance. Smart business owners recognize the part their people play in synergistically making them the top choice for their customers. Cheryl partners with leaders to not only take the worry out of managing the complex world of employment, but also to provide insight and strategy for culture definition and improvement. Cheryl is a Thought Leader in the People and Culture movement but understands the paperwork and policies needed to have flawless execution in order to support the vision. She is also the Human Resources & Culture GURU at Hera Hub Carlsbad. Visit our calendar to schedule your free one-on-one appointment with Cheryl.