8 Essential Steps to Help Leaders Prepare for Return-to-Site Work

8 Essential Steps to Help Leaders Prepare for Return-to-Site Work

Get expert insight on how to ready your workforce – and worksite – for a successful and safe return.
This article is a companion to The Hartford’s Spring 2021 Edition quarterly cover story, Leading in the Unknown: Work in a Post-COVID World.

With vaccinations proceeding and gaining momentum in the U.S., thoughts are now on returning to work. It's a daunting prospect, but these steps can help to manage the transition:

Create the Right Team

Cross-functional collaboration is necessary for a safe return to work. Participation should, at a minimum, include key areas such as Health and Safety, Business Operations, Real Estate, Technology and Human Resources. Companies should also include critical vendors in their planning to avoid potential supply chain disruptions.

Look at Local and Federal Regulations

Companies must navigate a maze of federal, state and local regulations that dictate workplace health and safety standards. Virus transmission rates vary by region as well. For multinational organizations, the task is even more complex. “It's not going to be a one-size-fits-all," said Marianne Flores of IBM, who says Big Blue will base its decisions “on clinical data on a local level, local legal requirements and employee sentiment in the area."

Go Slow

A staggered or gradual reopening gives employers time to gather necessary data to inform decisions and adjust strategy as necessary.

Develop a Medical Screening Approach

Situations will vary depending on the type of workplace, but common precautions include daily wellness surveys to flag COVID symptoms (while respecting employees' rights to privacy) and temperature checks before entering the building.

Create and Communicate Employee Guidelines

Clear messaging should start before employees return to work and continue after they have returned. “Reinforcing the use of healthy hygiene practices for employees is important," said Karen Howard, assistant vice president of Total Benefits at The Hartford. “Once you have a policy in place, make sure that returning employees acknowledge and sign it,” suggests Shandey Cuzzetto, program manager, Return to Work, at Sequoia Consulting.

Do a Health Retrofit

Offices may need to be reconfigured to ensure social distancing and limits for conference rooms and other common areas are strictly enforced. In The Hartford’s The Line on Leave Podcast, Dr. Adam Seidner, chief medical officer for The Hartford, suggested employers consider ventilation and environmental controls, physical barriers, cough and sneeze guards and hand sanitizer stations, depending on their workspace situation and individual needs. “Signage is going to be important for this," he added. Always consider ADA requirements and accommodations.

Consider COVID Perks

Some companies have created “welcome kits" with masks, sanitizers, keycards or contactless door openers. Others are adding bike rooms to accommodate new modes of transportation.

Clean According to the CDC

The CDC recommends employees maintain social distancing in the workplace and do not share desks and equipment. It also offers detailed cleaning and safety guidelines. Some scheduling apps do double duty by automatically booking a cleaning service after a conference room is used.
Amy Cortese
Amy Cortese
Amy Cortese is a journalist specializing in business and tech. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Businessweek and other publications.