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9 Tips For a Safe Return to the Workplace

A recent survey of U.S. adults demonstrated that most employed Americans are looking forward to transitioning back to working in the office.

The survey, conducted on April 29 through May 1st by the Harris Poll (on behalf of employer review site Glassdoor), found that 72 percent of the respondents are ready to return to their respective companies’ offices.



Forty five percent expect to be back in the office in some capacity by the summer. The top two reasons cited by respondents regarding their eagerness to return to an office environment include:

  • Socializing with co-workers (52%)
  • Collaborating in person (46%)

As offices slowly reopen, these reasons should give employers and workforce managers pause. Returning to the office comes with the responsibility of ensuring everyone’s safety. In their eagerness to catch up with colleagues and collaborating in-person, employees can easily forget to observe social distancing.

So how do you ensure a successful and safe transition back into the office?

1. Follow federal, state and local guidelines.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, and state/local governments have all released their guidelines for returning to the workplace. Prior to employees’ first day back in the office, employers should conduct a thorough check to ensure that their workplace is aligned with the new COVID-19–related regulations such as capacity levels and distance between workstations. Failure to comply may result in fines and closures.

2. Clean your offices thoroughly.

This includes areas that are not regularly cleaned, such as air ducts and ventilation systems. Since facilities have been shut down for a long period, it is good practice to check for possible mold growth, an infestation of rodents or pests, or issues with stagnant water systems.

3. Communicate the measures you have implemented.

A lot of employees may be eager to return to the office, but that does not mean they are no longer concerned for their health and safety. Allay their concerns by communicating all the measures and rules you are implementing. Post signs in all the common areas with the date and time they were sanitized. Make sure that you have their trust, so they can focus on doing their job.

4. Provide hand sanitizer and masks throughout the premises.

Employees may not always have access to a mask or simply forget their own. When possible, make these available on front desks, break rooms, and other easily noticeable areas. The presence of hand sanitizers encourages their use and helps reduce the spread of germs on commonly used surfaces.

5. Limit the number of people attending meetings and enforce social-distancing protocols.

If meeting in-person is necessary, enforce protocol-compliant seating arrangements for the duration of the meeting.

6. Modify in-person social gatherings or scrap them altogether.

Occasions like birthdays, team celebrations and other social gatherings should be approached with caution. Virtual parties could serve as a safer alternative that still allows for socialization while adhering to standard social-distancing guidelines.

7. Extend WFH arrangements when possible.

Employees who are able to work remotely should have the option to continue doing so, especially if they are still not comfortable being back in the workplace.

8. Avoid making exceptions to the rules.

Your safety rules and guidelines should apply to everyone. Consistency is key for the safest outcome, long-term.

9. Provide counseling or counseling resources.

Individuals affected by COVID-19 (whether direct or indirectly) could benefit from counseling to better cope through this time. Offering sessions or even just resources to counseling can lead to a long-term positive impact, in and outside of the workplace.

If you need workforce management advice and support, Payroll Systems has HR solutions that are easy to scale to address your specific business needs.

You can also leverage our integrated automated payroll service to give your in-house HR staff much-needed breathing room so they can focus on helping your employees settle back in.

Contact us to learn more.

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This article provides general information and shouldn’t be construed as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws may change over time and can vary by location and industry, please consult a lawyer or HR expert for advice specific to your business. You can also contact Payroll Systems to inquire about our HR support services.