As we roll into the second year of a global pandemic, many people are ready to go back to work. Some companies are planning to welcome employees back sometime in Q1, while others may be waiting until the late spring or summer. Regardless, it would be wise to consider your COVID-19 mitigation policy.
The novel coronavirus is still spreading quickly in some places, and researchers are unclear how well the vaccine will stop the spread. That means we may be adhering to COVID-19 risk mitigation strategies for quite some time.
Why you need a COVID-19 mitigation policy
- Have a plan: It’s important to be thoughtful about how you will keep your employees—and for some companies, your customers—safe. Thoroughly document your plan to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 infection so you can visualize any missing parts and more effectively follow through on execution.
- Address concerns: Your employees may have some concerns about the safety of returning to work. Sharing your COVID-19 mitigation policy can reassure them you are following guidelines to mitigate the risk of workplace COVID-19 transmission.
- Share expectations: An effective COVID-19 mitigation plan will rely on employees to participate. For instance, every employee should wear a mask, and maintain physical distance from others. Share those expectations so each employee understands the role they must play to mitigate the risk of transmission.
- Apply expectations consistently: A written policy gives employees, managers, and your HR team something to reference, so that it may be applied consistently. For example, if your policy states that anyone with a cough must stay home, it’s important that all managers understand that.
What to include in your COVID-19 mitigation policy
Health experts are learning more about COVID-19 over time, and it’s important that your policy takes the latest guidance into consideration. Look for information from the World Health Organization (WHO) and local health agencies, including Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).
Depending on current guidance, you may want to include things like:
- Office reconfiguration: Share what you’ve done to prepare the workplace and mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Let’s say you’ve moved desks 6’ apart, and have put some desks in areas that were previously communal spaces. Explain this is to allow for social distancing and to discourage people from congregating.
- Sanitation stations: Outline where you’ve placed sanitation stations, and what’s included. For example, hand sanitizer near the entrance and common areas, a thermometer near the entrance and in the restrooms, and tissues and wastebaskets throughout.
- Cleaning protocols: Explain how your cleaning protocols have changed as a result of COVID-19. For example, let team members know if you have a cleaning crew doing a deep cleaning every day, and if employees should be wiping down communal equipment after use.
- Ventilation updates: If you’ve made any updates to workplace ventilation, let team members know. This may include introducing more outdoor air via your HVAC or by opening windows, or adding air purifiers.
- Workplace schedule: If you intend to have different teams on different days, share your schedule. For instance, sales and marketing on Monday and Tuesday, product and engineering on Thursday and Friday, and deep cleaning on Wednesday and Saturday.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE): Let team members know what PPE they will be expected to wear, and whether you will provide it. Be explicit about how it should be worn, and when, and if there are any exceptions.
- Social distancing: Share your expectations for social distancing, and what you’re doing to help employees maintain it. For instance, reducing conference room capacity, updating team building events to be virtual, and setting up additional lunch tables outside.
- Self-screening: Share a self-screening questionnaire with employees to complete before coming to the workplace, and ask that they stay home if they’re exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Outline what a team member should do if they begin showing symptoms while they’re already at work.
Final thoughts on your COVID-19 mitigation policy
Going back to work can be both exciting and scary amid a global pandemic that has changed so much in our everyday lives. But there is much we can do to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. Build it all into your policy, and stay abreast of new guidance as it’s released. And, as always, stay in close contact with your team members to address their concerns and feedback.
Ready to learn more about back to work planning?
Download our latest eBook Return to Work Planning: How to Make a Smooth Transition Back to Work