5 employers tips for safely returning to the workplace

Just as the shift to work from home was a massive undertaking, employers are realizing the shift back to the office is another challenge the North American business community is facing.
The working model you choose (return to work, work from home, or a hybrid) is something that employers are giving a lot of thought to, and employees are not shy in voicing their opinions. The impact of the choices employers make will have a long-lasting effect on workforce engagement, retention, recruiting, and culture in the long run.
According to Statistics Canada, “Workers who reported accomplishing more work per hour while working from home indicated that they would prefer working most or all of their hours at home much more often (57%) than all other workers (30%).”


If you are an employer and are looking for ways to safely bring some or all of your employees back to your workplace, here are 5 tips to get you started:

Implementing a Re-entry Team, led by the Safety Department:

There is no doubt that the health and safety of your workforce must be your top priority. Identify key persons or designates in each office who will be responsible for monitoring the workplace. It is recommended that you have a safety representative or member of the Joint Health & Safety Committee involved.

Your re-entry team must provide a detailed plan of how to bring your workforce back to their office space in a safe way. This includes decisions for safe physical distance, appropriate seating arrangements, maintaining a limited number of employees in the office, installing sanitation and cleaning stations, etc.

Proactive communication:

One of the main concerns for employees returning to their workplaces is knowing how their return to the workplace is being planned. This includes questions like…

  • What date am I expected to go to my workplace?
  • What cleanliness and sanitation protocols will be followed?
  • How many people will be in the office with me?
  • What if I have a question about my reentry?

Business leaders will need to provide answers to ensure a smooth transition of their workforce from remote to office. One of the best ways to do so is to conduct regular meetings and check-ins with your managers and teams - before and after your employees return to the office. Keep all levels of management informed of changing restrictions that affect the company’s return to work plan.

Prioritize employee safety and well-being:

"According to a study from Publicis Sapient, 80% of people said fear of contracting Covid-19 is their main concern when returning and commuting to the office."

The decision to return to work can be unnerving for your employees. In most cases, employees are counting on business leaders to ensure their safety and help them to re-acclimatize to the workplace.

Leaders need to show empathy and realize that while all employees experienced the pandemic crisis, it didn’t affect everyone in the same way. It’s important to support all responses.

Flexibility and re-evaluation:

It is important to consider the fluidity of the pandemic. While Canadian businesses and federal and provincial leaders are taking every step necessary to ensure that Canada doesn’t rebound in a lockdown phase again, it is difficult to predict the exact future.

Under such circumstances, businesses need to remain flexible and open to change, should a particular work model no longer be effective for an employee or their teams. In many cases, re-evaluation and change may become imperative to confirm a healthy and productive work culture.

While the above tips offer some practical steps for employers to consider prior to reopening or expanding existing operations, when or how workplaces can reopen will rely largely on federal and provincial guidelines and requirements. When analyzing essential operations and the employees required to support those operations, employers must continue to focus on decreasing the risks to workers and ensuring steps are in place to avoid a resurgence of COVID-19.

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