We recently covered the top things every company should consider as we return to work. Right now, we’d like to provide resources to employees who will be returning to the workplace and looking for guidance during this unprecedented time.
As each state reopens nonessential businesses at their own discretion, employees will need to follow their employer’s plan for how they will adjust to the “new normal.” This includes understanding guidelines pertaining to safety and legal requirements as well as considering the time it will take for employees and their families to readjust.
Legal & Safety Requirements
With varied concerns about the transmission of COVID-19, each state, county, city, and individual business will have its own set of safety and legal guidelines when it comes to how companies will conduct business as they return to the office. Some states may leave the decision up to the discretion of the county, and some counties may incorporate their own stages and safety measures as they see fit, and so on.
With recent guidelines published by the CDC, employees must prepare themselves for a change in how business will be conducted in the office. Many employers will need to reconfigure workspaces to allow for recommended social distancing. Employees can also expect that their employer may mandate temperature checks before the start of their workday and require that all individuals wear masks while in the office.
Those who work in larger offices may be asked to work in teams, taking different shifts that alternate between working from home and working in the office. This is to limit the number of people working in the same space. It may also be plausible that businesses disallow the use of communal areas, including conference rooms, kitchens, and lunchrooms. If employers do close down their kitchen and areas where employees eat, they should provide an alternative sanitary space so employees can still enjoy their break.
More CDC guidelines for employees and employers include recommended extended telework, flexible meeting and travel options, delivering products through curbside pickup or delivery, and increasing physical space between employees and customers.
Additionally, employees should be mindful that their employers must observe the expanded laws related to sick, medical, and other leaves for employees, along with the long-established laws related to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace.
Mental Health Concerns
It is part of the employers’ role to ensure a smooth transition as employees return to work. This may be a difficult process for employees who have grown accustomed to working from home. This may also be challenging for those with children and family members who are essential workers or have lost their jobs. The added stressors can take a toll on these individuals and affect their state of mind.
Employees need to be mindful that they could experience burnout due to stress and concerns related to COVID-19 and should request time off if they feel this is creating a negative impact on their mental health.
Their employers should also prepare to approach this adjustment with compassion and an understanding of what employees are currently going through.
With so much uncertainty, we all have a right to our feelings toward this pandemic and should not invalidate emotions of fear, apprehensiveness, or other feelings that would make one feel uncomfortable while returning to the workplace.
Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator
Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and workplace/Title IX investigator 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. She is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on and provided commentary with such media outlets as Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, ABC, CBS, KTLA, KPCC Airtalk-89.3, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, People Magazine, and Essence Magazine.
Angela also is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California company that represents the gold standard in dispute resolution.
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.