Were you thrilled to start working from home?

As the economy begins reopening after COVID-19 mandatory shutdowns, HR leaders, managers, and employees face uncertainty on how to safely return to the workplace. In this new normal, the top priority must remain the health of all team members. Coming back to work can be stressful but, with proper planning and dialogue, HR and managers can help teams navigate the transition while enhancing connectivity and collaboration.

What can HR do?

HR has a big part to play in planning the return to work from COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, both in setting up the business ahead of employees coming back and in maintaining ongoing safety protocol and outbreak preparedness.

Back office procedures

Reopening workplaces will be contingent on being able to observe social distancing and hygiene practices. Without adaptations, most workspaces are unfit to meet social distancing and COVID-specific requirements, so before bringing employees back, it will first be necessary to reconfigure the space.

  1. Know your site’s regulations. Both the CDC and OSHA have released comprehensive guidance to businesses reopening during COVID-19, including industry-specific guidelines.  
  2. Prepare the office for returning employees. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the facilities, paying special attention to high-traffic areas such as stairwells, elevators, dining areas, shared spaces, and bathrooms. 
  3. Re-map seating arrangement to meet social distancing guidelines. Stagger workstations and indicate distances clearly, for example with floor markings or carpets, and consider installing transparent shields to further protect against the virus. 
  4. Develop hybrid work solutions to maintain distance. If possible, keep some team members remote to reduce interaction and minimize disruption in case of unexpected closures. Stagger how many people return to work and structure schedules to keep numbers low. 

Recalculate meeting room capacity to keep in-person meetings under eight people and maintain distance at all times. For larger meetings, stick to video conferencing even if all of the meeting members are in the office

Front office preparations

Once the workplace is prepped and primed for the return to work, the next step is to ensure that they’ll be able to maintain proper hygiene during the workday. 

  1. Put up posters communicating hygiene rules in the office at multiple locations, especially where many employees gather such as elevators or dining areas. 
  2. Keep sanitizing equipment available to encourage compliance with hygiene recommendations. 
  3. Implement temperature checks while remaining mindful of employee privacy. For a detailed guide to employee temperature checks and other hygiene protocols, look at SHRM’s comprehensive directive to employers.  
  4. Keep shared spaces safe by reorganizing seating and layouts to keep people six feet apart and consider creating shifts or time slots for when individuals can use these spaces. 
  5. Determine kitchen and food guidelines, clearly communicating how employees should prepare food and eat in the office. 

Reassess cleaning arrangements to prioritize sanitizing protocols. Provide cleaning staff with protective equipment and virus-specific cleaning supplies, and emphasize thoroughly cleaning high-touch surfaces such as handrails, elevator buttons, and light switches.

Taking responsibility for preventive maintenance

Combating the spread of COVID-19 is a shared responsibility. Each of us should do our part in reducing the risk of infection, especially for more vulnerable members of our communities. Communication among teams and adhering to organizational standards out of mutual obligation will empower and strengthen collaboration, setting the scene for long term success once the crisis is contained. Working together, managers, HR, and teams can get back to work safely and with renewed motivation and morale.


From Shayna Hodkin

Shayna lives in south Tel Aviv with two dogs and a lot of plants. She writes poems and reads tarot.