In March, we were all convinced that a return to the office was a mere two weeks away. Six months later, as some workers are finally returning to the office, while others who travel to support critical mission requirements are on the move, we must review the considerations associated with doing so. There are considerable factors, and they overlap and change depending on the ever-changing health status of your teams.
These challenges are a huge burden and workload. The designated person or department will need support and policies to be consistent.
The easiest way to approach this is to break the challenges down into simple categories:
· Who is going to come back?
· How do you determine if it is safe?
· When are they coming back?
· What precautions must be taken?
· Where are they coming from or going to and are those locations high risk or “hot spots”?
Who is Coming Back to the Office?
There may be some employees who have been deemed essential and have been onsite since March. For others, it’s important to determine which employees need access to resources at the office above other staff. A split schedule can be implemented to enforce social distancing.
How do you Determine Safety?
Other considerations include cleaning schedules of the office space and self monitoring. Will you mandate everyone isolate for two weeks before coming it or that staff get tested before retuning?
Some business, such as airlines, have developed near instant tests. Will you require those? How long should an employee stay away after testing positive? What about when the Covid-19 vaccine is finally released. Will you mandate that, even if your staff express doubts about the safety of the vaccine?
Finally, some employees may not want to come into the office for a variety of reasons. You should plan for this option as well.
How do You Know It’s Safe?
A good first step is to examine what the federal, state and city government guidelines are, not just for the location of your office, but also where your employees are coming from, or heading to. And you must determine if your office meets their criteria for safely reopening.
How will your office layout affect this decision? There would be practically no way to ensure safety in an open plan office with a full staff. Could you pull desks apart or limit the number of staff per day?
Additionally, what will you do if an employee who comes into work later tests positive for COVID-19? How thoroughly do you clean your offices, how long will employees stay away this time, do you require everyone to retest and self-isolate?
Returning to the office should be in context of local COVID-19 infection levels where employees both live and work,” said Kevin Cevasco, MPH MBA, Director, Population Health Informatics. “COVID-19 testing and reporting approaches vary across the country; therefore, planning for large organizations can be difficult. Monitoring local percent positive test rate trends is an example of a metric that provides early warning and comparable numbers across geographies."
What Precautions are Needed?
Consider the now-standard COVID-19 precautions, and how they will apply to your office. Will you want all the employees to wear masks and wipe down their desks? Have you planned for shared spaces like the breakrooms, conference & meeting spaces or the cafeteria? Are there bottlenecks like elevators, security check points, cafeterias, IT support facilities?
One potential precaution is to have all employees regularly fill out a simple status and health journal, assessing if they meet a list ofCOVID-19 symptoms (cough, fever, etc.) and if they have encountered anyone else who has.
How do you Track Travel and Contact?
Maintaining a list of remote workers, those who must come into the office and those who travel is extremely important in these times. This step of gathering the data from multiple sources and consolidating it under one single pane of glass can help ensure that nobody comes in who or returns from travel feels actively sick or has been put in a position of increased exposure risk is probably the most controllable part of the process.
Remember that all these considerations should be made as much in advance as possible and consistently tracked and updated. That way, you can plan around potential problems and safety issues. The most important thing is that the guidelines you give are simple to understand and the decisions you make are based on reliable data and defendable.
How to best leverage the available information to make defendable decisions.
A good option for tracking is a tool created for a DoD client by Coras. With the onset of the COVID-19 Corona virus and the President’s national guidelines, our client in the Department of Defense had an immediate need for an efficient work management solution. Specifically, they required a solution that provides the capability for the very tedious tasks of planning, scheduling, deployment and tracking of their personnel both in and out of the Pentagon during this emergency period of social distancing. CORAS' COVID-19 Continuity of Operations (COOP) solution provides branch leads the ability to plan and track their personnel’s daily work schedules, as well as the capability to enter their daily activities. Critical data components captured include: branch and type of personnel (civil, military, contractor), if the resource is approved for Pentagon Parking, special situations such as at-risk items including sickness or children at home, and whether personnel require special assistance or are experiencing IT connectivity issues when working remotely.
To learn more about CORAS visit us at www.coras.com
Further reading, visit this article at CDC.gov: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/returning-to-work.html
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