Returning to Work with New Policies & Practices

Shawnee Love   •   May 15, 2020

We continue our blogs on getting people back to work with a blog on the policies and procedures that are needed.

The number one recommendation we have under this subject is that you absolutely need to be documenting all of these steps you are taking, including the ones we have already discussed over the last couple blogs on barriers and PPE, and physical distancing measures.  Having this all written down helps with training and reminding what needs to be done, can be reassuring to those employees (and customers) who are in the space, and is critical for accountability.

Policies and procedures which have become necessary include those relating to:

  • Sickness & Absences: Subject matter includes what to do if you are feeling sick, and the ancillary policies regarding the types of leaves, and paid vs unpaid time away from work, etc.
  • Disclosure of illness/ exposure: Considerations include will you ask people daily how they are feeling or make it their responsibility to disclose?
  • Essential and non-essential travel: Here you will want to address both work related travel and personal travel. Of course first and foremost is to follow instructions from health authorities and government agencies, but many employers are taking extra steps here to protect and ease the minds of their people.
  • Occupancy limits: Whether for the entire workspace or specific rooms, guidance is helpful on this front as are new protocols for kitchen or meeting space use (maybe with a method of booking) which allows time for cleaning in between uses.
  • Vacation: Most clients have policies on vacation already which discuss requesting and approving vacation, but a policy upgrade may be helpful for discussing rescinding vacations (if and when you need all hands on deck or someone else is sick) or mandating vacation (to ensure people use their vacation time off that year).
  • Remote work/ telecommuting: Many organizations did this to keep their people working so this recommendation is mostly to put some parameters around who and how as well as standards to be met for next time (whether next time is due to a pandemic or simply a flexible work option for a valued employee).
  • Cleaning and sanitizing practices: Again, we are probably doing this already, but having a procedure for who is responsible, how frequently it will be done, where its required, what tools to use, how to do it safely, and how to confirm it is done is going to be critical to ensuring it happens properly.
  • Hazard reporting and refusing unsafe work: Again, these rights and responsibilities are already in existence nation-wide, but many people don’t know how to go about doing these things properly in their workplaces. As such, it’s worthwhile to clarify the procedures and people to go to in a documented policy for your organization.
  • Mental health programming: This pandemic has affected everyone differently but most people I talk with report some kind of struggle. More than ever before, I am hearing words like “overwhelmed”, “fearful”, “exhausted” and “stressed”, and people describing their irritation, anger, frustration, and resentment for others. I am also seeing those feelings leak out against coworkers and customers online, by phone, and face to face.  While some people live with these sentiments all the time, many are really struggling to handle this crisis we are living through.  While I don’t think employers should be responsible for the mental health of their employees, it certainly benefits employers to try to help.  Thus, we are encouraging managers to direct people to wellness resources and consider offering resiliency training and benefits such as time off or employee family assistance plans as part of their workplace programming going forward.

This is also a good time to begin building your plan for the next time this or some other emergency happens.  Having a written emergency plan in place which includes who to contact, how to get hold of them, what to do in the first 24 and 48 hours as well as guiding principles around ongoing operation will make the next time a lot easier to manage.

These policies and practices will help prepare your workplace and your people to return safely to work. If you have questions or other suggestions, please share your comments or engage with us on linked in.