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Bringing Employees Back Safely

What companies and employees can do to remain safe during COVID-19

COVID mask sanitizer VIA PIXABAY feb 2021 CROPPED

Coronavirus made working from home the norm for most of 2020 and into 2021, however some businesses have begun to gradually return to their offices. As people across the world ease into what was once normal, many remain concerned of potential outbreaks at work, massive shut downs, companies policies to avoid infections, among other issues. While the idea of returning to work in person may sound a bit anxiety-inducing, this guide will navigate what precautions companies are taking as well as what employees can do to keep themselves safe.

Steps companies are implementing

The big question on everyone’s mind at the moment is whether companies will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to the workplace. According to the AARP, technically an employer can require their employees to be vaccinated, however, there are many exceptions that they would need to legally adhere to. The most likely scenario is that employers will strongly encourage the vaccination, but not require it across the board.

The transition of returning to work is a bit daunting. “A major consideration every organization should evaluate before issuing a return-to-work order are the practices they have adopted to promote a safe physical environment for workers,” the National Safety Council (NSC) stated in its SAFER guide.

Here’s what strategies companies can use, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Temperature Checks
    One of the symptoms of Coronavirus is an individual having a temperature above 100.4° Fahrenheit. Be sure that screeners are properly protected through physical barriers and to maintain social distancing of six feet if employees are screening themselves.
  • Hand Sanitizing Stations
    Providing access to hand sanitizing stations throughout the workplace will help remind employees to consistently keep their hands clean.
  • Social Distancing Requirements
    To maintain a distance of six feet between staff, companies are moving workspaces around, directing foot traffic, and setting up visual cues.
  • Consistent Deep Cleaning
    To prevent spread, businesses are cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces at least once a day.
  • Mask Requirements
    Companies are requiring employees to wear masks and even provide face coverings for employees that don’t have one.
  • Ventilation Upgrades
    Companies are exploring upgrades to their ventilation systems as the CDC recommends routine HVAC maintenance and general ventilation improvements.

Company guidance

While some companies are slowly bringing employees back, many are still allowing people to work from home, particularly those most vulnerable to Coronavirus such as the immunocompromised as per CDC guidelines.

However, if you do find yourself needing to go to the workplace, there are a few steps employers and you can do to stay safe.

  • Maintain a social distance of at least six feet.
  • Use a face covering whenever you’re at the workplace. Employers should already be implementing this and/or providing clean masks.
  • Employers should keep all commonly used surfaces cleaned and disinfected every day, but you can take measures into your own hands and regularly clean your workspace.
  • Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds, especially if you’ve visited a public space.

Employee guidance

Along with employer’s precautions, you should also take responsibility for your health. These are some extra measures you can take to protect yourself from Coronavirus.

  • Take your own temperature before you go to work every morning. This way, you can avoid the risk of exposing others, especially if your employer doesn’t implement temperature screenings.
  • If you find yourself experiencing any symptoms or had contact with someone with Coronavirus, stay home! If you feel well enough, request to work from home and don’t risk spreading the virus to your co-workers.
  • Read up on and adhere to all company guidelines on best COVID practices. No method is perfect, but the more you stay on top of these practices the less likely you’ll contract Coronavirus.
  • Know the limitations of your workplace, particularly where spaces are small and/or narrow so you are able to maintain social distance. If you are in smaller spaces, be sure to wear a face covering and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Turn down any large gatherings from your company, even if outdoors. It’s no fun being a party pooper, but prioritize your health over social functions.

Is it necessary to return?

If the time arrives for you to return to the workplace and you still feel uncomfortable with the idea, perhaps you should lead the conversation on the benefits of working from home for both you and your employer. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Document your work and keep track of your progress to prove your productivity does not wane while WFH. In fact, it might even increase. One study showed that employee productivity increased by 13% while working from home. In some cases, working from home offers fewer distractions and may even increase morale if you’re not a fan of your office workspace.
  • If you’re concerned your supervisor won’t be open to you working from home, lay out your concerns with your HR department. Present your productivity growth and, for extra measure, offer to take on additional tasks to show your caliber. HR can help you navigate your company’s guidelines and may even help you speak with your supervisor about your options.
  • Most importantly, be honest with your boss. Be upfront about your safety concerns and ask for flexibility on their end. More than likely, they’ll appreciate your candor and be willing to work around your concerns.

The bottom line

Coming back to work at a workplace can be intimidating when Coronavirus is still a very real threat. Cases on the rise regularly make headlines and getting infected isn’t uncommon even if you’re being careful. However, there are ways to ensure the safety of your health and methods your company can implement for their employees. No plan or precaution can 100% guarantee you won’t catch Coronavirus, but many of these techniques can help lower your risk of infection.

Researched by the Safety Team
The Safety Team is a group of experts that handle provider research, product reviews and recalls to make your home safety and security search as easy as 1-2-3.

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