Latest Association Call Focuses on Protocols for Returning to the Workplace

May 15, 2020

HR Policy members shared their approaches to returning employees to the workplace on an Association-wide call this week, stressing safety, flexibility, alternatives to testing, and the use of available data.  These dynamic protocols underscore the complexities employers are faced with when developing policies that protect employees’ health while maintaining business continuity. 

Create flexible protocols: With the circumstances and related guidance changing on a near daily basis, it is important to develop protocols that are easy to communicate to employees but allow for flexibility depending on the type of worksite, location, and needs of employees. 

Health screenings and social distancing are more likely to be used than diagnostic or antibody testing: Most employers are including mandatory health screening questionnaires and temperature checking in their protocols.  Without clear guidance on appropriate testing protocols and limited access to the number of tests necessary, screening for symptoms via questionnaires and temperature checks before an employee enters the workplace seems to be the most efficient way to keep sick employees away from colleagues.  Additionally, many employers are providing PPE at work and are changing worksite layouts to allow for a 6-foot distance between employees in the office. 

Use available data to determine the appropriate steps for each location:  With most of our members spread throughout the world, a one size fits all approach is not feasible.  Employers are using local and state-wide public health data to determine the appropriate time to reopen their workplaces.  A common strategy is to create a tiered approach to reopening.  Bringing back certain classes of employees in a staggered approach allows employers to conduct essential business while continually monitoring the risk of an outbreak at a specific workplace.

Learning will be ongoing: Adaptable protocols that reflect the changing environment will allow employers to continue to lead employees in this time of uncertainty, even when they hit unexpected bumps in the road. This is crucial in maintaining employee trust as workplaces begin to reopen.