Key Considerations in Designing a Return to Work Plan

Reopening your office after COVID-19 isn’t a decision that you can make lightly or on the fly. Creating a plan takes time and careful consideration. Decisions have consequences, and nobody wants to be responsible for a poor decision. Naturally, you want to proceed with diligence and caution when designing your plan.

If you develop and execute a well-thought-out plan, you can set your office up for both safety and success. Making the right decisions ahead of reopening can ensure that your office continues to run smoothly and that your employees remain healthy. Consider these factors when designing a return-to-work plan for your office.

Assemble a Task Force

Utilize a task force of employees when preparing your return to work plan — this team will create the plan and serve as subject matter experts around the office. Choose a good cross-section of your workforce from different departments. Plan on meeting with your task force regularly, even after returning to the office.

Your task force should have a handle on local, state, and federal regulations and consult with healthcare professionals. Talk through scenarios as a team and develop a list of specifics on what to do in different situations, including if an employee becomes exposed. Present your plan to management and staff and continue meeting with the task force after reopening to determine if you need to make changes to your guidelines.

Communicate Effectively and Thoughtfully

Once you’ve developed your return to work plan, make sure every part of your plan is clear and that you communicate it thoroughly. It’s important to approach communicating your plan with thoughtfulness and leave room to answer questions and allay concerns. Your sensitivity to any apprehension on the part of your employees can help give them peace of mind about coming back to the office.

Circumstances can change quickly, so when you must alter your plan, make sure everyone is aware of the changes. It’s also crucial to have a plan in case of an outbreak among your employees. Communicate clearly what employees should do if they become infected and must quarantine, and ensure confidentiality when necessary.

Consider Reopening in Phases

For your first phase of reopening, determine who’s most essential in the office and who can work from home. Let employees who are high-risk work from home and help them if they need it. Your phases should be conditional based on stats and virus recovery in your area. Utilize your task force to develop flexible schedules and decide if and when to bring back furloughed employees.

At this point, you’ll need to determine your office layout for the first phase. Spread cubicles out for social distancing purposes, or install dividers or shields between desks if you have an open office layout. You may need to provide high-risk employees who are working from home for a longer term with a desk or table as a more permanent workstation as well.

Make Safety Paramount — And Visible

Employees who perceive that you care for their safety are more at ease and productive, so safety is crucial not just for obvious reasons, but also for the optics and peace of mind that your employees can experience. Consider implementing health screening and temperature checks prior to returning to work. You should determine whether you need to test employees before they come back to the office.

Place sanitation stations throughout your office so that employees and clients can sanitize their hands, and consider providing personal protective equipment like masks and gloves for employees if you require them. Social distancing is important, and your layout of cubicles and desks — as well as common areas — will go a long way in helping maintain the proper distance between employees. Clean and sanitize your office regularly, and make sure employees are vigilant when it comes to following protocols.

Adapt Your Space

Looking at the layout of your office as employees prepare to return to work is about more than just social distancing — it’s about setting up your employees for safety and success. You’ll need to develop new layouts for desks and cubicles to guarantee proper social distancing, and you may want to order new cubicles and desks to ensure that they’re easy to keep sanitary and clean. Purchase dividers to place between desks for additional protection. 

You should move items around in your break rooms and common areas for social distancing purposes. Take chairs and tables out so that you can spread the remaining ones out, or consider procuring larger tables so that you can place seating further apart. Turn to single-use coffee cups, plates, and utensils to replace reusable items.

Set up tables and dividers for any necessary health screening areas, and place stations for hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment throughout your office spaces. You may also want to install quiet areas for video meetings with clients and expect employees to sanitize the space when they’re done.

Preparing to reopen your office and return your employees to work may require new office furniture. When the time comes to secure new items for your office, don’t waste money on buying pieces. Turn to CORT to help you rent the furniture you need.

CORT can help you populate your office spaces with desks, cubicles, tables, dividers, and more to implement your return to work plan. Their experts can help you determine the best layouts and give you ideas that inspire. You can count on CORT Clean Certified™ products to be sanitized and ready to use, and CORT makes installation and assembly a breeze.

Before you bring employees back to the office, be sure you contact CORT to bring all the furnishing you need into your office. CORT can help you set your returning employees up for success and safety.