The COVID-19 pandemic upended the ways people live, work and function in society. Many employers have spent the past several months wondering when conditions will allow their employees to return to the office. Other employers may be figuring out whether remote work will be more of a factor in their business operations. It’s always best to use a data-driven, scientific approach with dependable intelligence when making these decisions. Here are some ways you can use science to formulate your decision about when to have your employees return to your physical business location.
1. Examine Local COVID-19 Infection Rates and Trends
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been evenly spread across the United States. In March and April 2020, it heavily impacted the states of Washington and New York. During the summertime, it hit North and South Dakota and Iowa. In late autumn, the Sunbelt had a surge of cases. During the early winter, the Midwest and California had soaring infection rates. There are multiple sources of local-level maps and tables with infection rates. Your local health department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Johns Hopkins University are a few reliable sources of information.
2. Employee Illnesses and Test Results
All businesses need to do COVID-19 screenings of employees. Your employees should also be reaching out to their managers if they have symptoms or are awaiting COVID-19 test results. You should monitor rates of employee illness, including whether they have symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. Keep in mind that anyone who meets the CDC’s criteria for quarantine after exposure should also be told to work from home instead of coming into your building.
3. Ability to Maintain Public Health Guidelines
Consider your workplace’s ability to maintain the guidelines for COVID-19 risk reduction issued by the CDC. If your workplace involves people in close quarters, you may not be able to bring everyone back and maintain social distancing. You’ll also need to ensure that all employees wear masks and that masks, other types of personal protective equipment and hand washing stations or hand sanitizer are available for employee use.
4. State and Local Regulations
Many communities and states still have public health regulations in place regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Your business may not be able to operate at full capacity under local guidance. Your business hours might also be restricted, or the number of customers you can serve may be reduced. You’ll need to know this information in advance and keep up with the changes as they happen.
5. Company Guidance
Look at your own company’s policies and HR procedures. You might need to make some changes in order to accommodate public health guidelines and employee wellness until all of your employees are immune to COVID-19 either by natural infection or through vaccination. For example, you may want to eliminate penalties for sick leave use if an employee or a member of their household becomes ill.