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5 tips for returning to the office and keeping your employees safe

For the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many Americans working from home for the first time. Collectively, we’ve transitioned to video meetings, more emails than ever and new tech to get our work done remotely.

It can be night and day from working in an actual office, dealing with distractions of everyday life while doing your best to remain focused on the job at hand. Not only that, but your home office might not be set up as efficiently as it could be. Tap or click here for essential work from home basics.

Now, businesses are reopening and many people will be heading back into the office soon, if not already. The question is how do we move forward safely while taking precautions to remain healthy?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution that applies to every work environment. Instead, it’s about establishing precautions and policies to stay safe. We’ve created this free employee agreement you can use as a guide to help get your office open again.

The new normal at work

As we get back to the office, it’s all about finding ways to balance productivity while managing health risks. It’s going to take some considerable operational changes to meet public health guidelines designed to keep employees healthy. But it’s doable.

You may also like: Check this COVID-19 restrictions map before hitting the road

We’ve scoured resources from the CDC, World Health Organization, OSHA and Kaiser Permanente to bring you some key takeaways to make your workplace safe for employees to return.

1. Provide clear sanitation guidelines

Follow federal and state guidelines for a safe workplace. Use the following recommendations from the CDC concerning employee sanitation behaviors:

  • Promote frequent hand washing.
  • Provide hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol in multiple locations.
  • Institute universal masking whenever possible.
  • Place tissues and trash receptacles throughout the workplace.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow.
  • Provide space between workstations. If you can, separate shared workspaces and move employees further apart.
  • Prohibit large gatherings. Consider holding meetings through video chat or over the phone, even once you’re back at the office.
  • Identify and provide the type of personal protective equipment needed in your workplace.

RELATED: Kim’s choice for hand sanitizer.You can buy in bulk for your office.

2. Make safety changes

Personal protection and hygiene are important. Equally important are hygiene changes you can make to the overall work environment. That includes:

  • Increased ventilation rates
  • Outdoor air circulation into the building
  • Routine cleaning and disinfecting of all frequently touched surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, workstations, keyboards, handrails and other work equipment)
  • Providing disinfecting wipes so all employees can wipe down their workstations, equipment and belongings during the day
  • Limiting access to common areas like kitchens and lounges
  • Create paths in and out of the office to limit employees squeezing by each other in small spaces
  • Encourage employees to use the elevator one at a time, if you have one

3. Isolate exposure to the virus

Set ground rules for teaching your staff how to isolate exposure in case someone does show symptoms or become ill.

  • Contact tracing – If an employee becomes infected with COVID-19, contact tracing enables you to warn other employees they’ve been exposed. They need to quarantine immediately to stop further spread of the virus.
  • Sick day policies and procedures – Ensure sick day policies aren’t punitive and express expectations for workers to stay home at the first sign of illness.
  • Isolation protocol – OSHA recommends teaching employees about policies and procedures for isolation of sick people when appropriate, including designated isolation rooms.

OSHA has more guidelines tailored to specific industries to reduce the risk of exposure. Tap or click here to see those guidelines.

RELATED: 3 COVID maps that show if your state is ready to reopen

4. Be clear about health and safety guidelines

Give your employees clear expectations on procedures including hand sanitation, personal protective equipment and physical distancing.

Here are some things to focus on :

  • Stopping the spread of COVID-19 begins with hand hygiene. Employees should be washing their hands often with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds and using hand sanitizer at other times.
  • Communicate clearly and frequently what employees should do if they or a coworker have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Create an easily accessible website or shared online document to host up-to-date workplace procedures and policies.
  • Have employees sign a contract acknowledging they understand and accept the terms created for a safe return to the office.

RELATED: Kim’s pick for the best face mask

5. Employee COVID-19 acknowledgement

Your first concern should always be the health and safety of your employees. However, COVID-19 is an insidious virus and its transmission is still surrounded by the unknown.

That’s why it’s a good idea to create a contract to have employees sign and acknowledge that they agree to your established terms. Keeping your staff healthy is contingent on everyone following the rules, after all.

This contract was created for Komando staff and we’re sharing it with you, free of charge, to use as a template or guide for creating your own rules.

Now it’s time for the standard legal disclaimers. This information is provided for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. As with all legal documents, make sure you run this by your attorney too.

Here are a few policies being instituted at Komando headquarters:

  • You will take your temperature every day immediately before reporting to work. If you have a temperature of 100.4 or higher, you will not return to work until 14 days after your temperature returns to normal.
  • You will not report to work if you have had contact with anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 or suspects such an exposure, until 14 days after your last contact with that person.
  • You will wear a face mask in the workplace whenever you are within 25 feet of a coworker.
  • If you observe any workplace conditions that could be conducive to COVID-19 transmission, you will immediately report them to Human Resources.

That’s just an example of some of the guidelines we’re adhering to at Komando HQ. Feel free to download this contract and use it as a template for your own company. Make changes as you see fit based on your needs, and run any legal document by your attorney before asking employees to sign.

Tap or click here to get the Employee COVID-19 acknowledgement form.

Remember, we’re all in this together and everyone needs to do their part to keep others healthy and safe. These workplace guidelines will help establish clear expectations of everyone in your company.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

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