Considerations for Returning to Work as States begin to Re-Open

Many organizations across the country have spent the last 60 days supporting employees as they work from home due to Federal, State, and Municipal stay-at-home regulations. Many states have started to relax some of their restrictions allowing some employees to return to work. While we are still far away from returning pre-COVID-19 normal, there are several things to consider in establishing a return to work plan.

TRAVEL

Employers may have the ability to implement strategies to manage contact within the office. However, we have little to no control over how employees commute to work. According to the MTA, over 7.5 million people utilize public transportation on weekdays. A significant segment of that ridership is people commuting to and from work. To reduce the risk of exposure while commuting, we recommend using modes of transportation that limit interactions with large groups of people. Driving, using taxis, ride-share services, cycling, or walking to work (when possible) are considered lower risk options than using public transportation at this time. Some of these costs can be subsidized through the use of commuter benefit cards. However, if employees are required to report to the office, organizations are encouraged to assist those who may experience financial hardship when utilizing these modes of transportation.

HOTELING

Hoteling is already a process used in many offices to reserve communal spaces such as conference rooms and phone booths. Depending on the size, layout, and design of the office, organizations may allow a larger number of employees back into the office using this process. As long as CDC guidelines for social distancing are still maintained, a limited number of employees could be allowed to reserve a seat in the office.

STAFF ROTATIONS

Another option adopted by some organizations is establishing rotations for employees to use the office. The process includes establishing cohorts of employees who go into the office for defined period of times. This process would potentially limit new infections to smaller groups that can be monitored and quarantined should a confirmation of positive diagnosis or presence of COVID-19 be reported by anyone within the group.

SHIFTS IN OFFICE OPERATIONS

The way we interact within the office could change even when we are allowed to return. Use of conference rooms by groups should be scrutinized and discouraged. Conference rooms allow several employees into confined spaces, which increasing the risk of exposure for everyone who enters the space. While use of conference rooms should be avoided for groups, an alternative use of the space could be allowing employees to use the space as an office for a day. However, this practice should only be utilized when proper cleaning of the space is guaranteed between each interaction.

Communication regarding changes within the office setting should be communicated before employees return to the workplace. This information should be reinforced with documentation made available within the office as well. There are other considerations that are specific to each organization such as assessing quantities of supplies, policies for managing visitors, and engaging management of the buildings where your office resides.

If you require assistance with developing a customized return-to-work plan, feel free to contact your Kiwi Partners HR Advisor.

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