Employees across California are heading back to work after more than a year of layoffs, business closings, and remote working arrangements. This transition can be challenging for everyone. However, there are several measures employers can take to prepare for employees to safely return to the workplace.
Address the Physical Environment
The physical workspace may require some changes to make it safer. These modifications can include:
- Separating desks to provide at least 10 feet of distance between staff members
- Limiting capacity in common areas
- Providing hand sanitizer in multiple locations throughout the office
- Controlling entrances and exits
- Increasing cleaning and sanitizing measures
- Staggering break times
- Performing maintenance on heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, including air filters
- Requiring employees to be vaccinated before returning to work
- Compelling employees to wear masks when working onsite
These measures can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and make the workplace safer for employees.
Consider the Value of Remote Work
Many workers have already been working completely or partly offsite for more than a year. Employers should consider continuing to allow employees to work remotely on a full-time basis or making arrangements for employees to work remotely part of the time and onsite other times. Employers should also consider allowing entire departments to work remotely for teams that can perform optimally while dispersed,
Providing employees with this kind of flexibility can be an attractive option for several reasons. Staff members may prefer to have a choice because it allows for greater work-life balance. For employers, this option could be attractive because it may reduce the costs of renting and maintaining the same amount of square footage at a prime office location.
If you do change remote work policies, be sure that any updates you make are lawful and fair under both state and federal employment laws. Otherwise, the changes could ultimately lead to legal complications and disputes. Employers should also consider conducting employee surveys to collect the data needed to support these decisions.
Update Your Policies
COVID-19 has changed the way businesses across California operate. If these changes will be more permanent, employers will need to update their policies and procedures, and clearly communicate this information to everyone in the organization.
For instance, you may need to update sick leave policies and workers’ compensation information. You will also want to provide clear direction on remote work, scheduling, and reimbursement for offsite office expenses. Employers should continue having an established interactive process available for employees who may need accommodations under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act or California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
The post-pandemic workplace may look quite different when people start coming back, but that does not mean it should be any less safe or welcoming for workers. Employers who take these steps can ensure the transition back to business goes more smoothly for everyone.