In 2020, many businesses across the country began operating remotely to help protect workers from contracting COVID-19. As we make our way into the fall and winter months, many areas are seeing a decline in coronavirus cases, allowing some businesses to resume operating together under one roof once again.
As expected, many employers who own and manage these businesses are apprehensive about returning to the office. With no prior experience in navigating a pandemic, they must turn to local/state officials and health organizations to establish a safe work environment.
Office building employers, owners and managers, and operations specialists can take the following steps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create a safe and healthy workplace for workers and clients.
Protect Staff and Others to Slow the Spread
Before returning to the office, the CDC recommends researching and implementing preventive measures to help protect staff. To start, the interim guidance provided by the CDC may help to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19 in non-healthcare settings. The guide includes information regarding businesses and employers’ role in responding to COVID-19 and recommendations on preventing and reducing transmission among employees.
The CDC also recommends preparing the office before employees return. Employers should evaluate the building and its mechanical and life safety systems to determine if the building is ready for occupancy. It’s especially important to check for hazards associated with prolonged facility shutdown as well.
Employers should also identify where and how staff may be exposed to COVID-19 at work and develop hazard controls to reduce transmission among workers. To do so, the CDC recommends referring to the hierarchy of controls; a chart used to determine how to implement feasible and effective control solutions.
Educate Staff on Steps They Can Take to Protect Themselves
Employers should provide communication and training that is easy to understand and includes accurate and timely information. Education topics should consist of signs and symptoms of infection, staying home when ill, social distancing, cloth face coverings, hand hygiene practices, and identifying and minimizing potential transmission routes at work, at home, and in the community.
The CDC has free, simple posters available to download and print, some of which are translated into different languages.
Take Action to Maintain a Healthy Work Environment
The CDC also recommends creating new sick leave, cleaning, and employee communication policies to help protect workers and clients once the transition back to the office has taken place. This information is included in the COVID-19 interim guidance. These measures will give employees more confidence in their employers and help them feel more comfortable returning to the office.
For more information and answers to frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 and returning to work, click here.
Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator
Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, certified workplace, and Title IX investigator (AWI-CH), mediator, and arbitrator in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues.
Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, ABC, CBS, Fox 11 News, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Yahoo! Entertainment, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.
Angela is also a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California company that represents the gold standard in dispute resolution. She also owns her own law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in workplace and Title IX discrimination, harassment, and sexual assault investigations.
This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.