The COVID-19 pandemic changed many of the ways we live and work. Businesses needed to remain nimble in order to keep employees safe and healthy, maintain productivity, meet customers’ needs and keep the lights on. Many had to implement new policies and procedures, such as allowing employees to work remotely, in order to get things done despite the growing number of recommendations.


Now, as the population is getting vaccinated and things are starting to return to normal, you may have previously remote employees returning to the office. Once again, you’ll need to make adjustments to your operations and this can include a return-to-office plan.


Building your return-to-office plan

To help things run as smoothly as possible, you’ll want to consider the following and what fits best for your business and employees:


1.) Safety procedures. As always, your number one priority is the well-being of your workers. You can help ensure everyone stays safe and healthy as they transition from home to the workplace when you consider the following:

    • Health screening. During the pandemic, many businesses required health screenings, such as temperature checks before anyone could enter the building. Continuing to include steps like these can help you keep office staff healthy.
    • Regular cleaning. Wiping down, washing and sanitizing regularly touched surfaces on a regular basis is one of the best ways to ensure your workplace is clean. Be sure to keep a steady supply of soap and hand sanitizer for workers, as well as disinfectant wipes so they can also clean and sanitize on their own.
    • Physical distancing. Just like during the pandemic, this can include staggering shifts to limit people in the building, traffic flow indicators, protective shields around stations and increasing distance between stations.
    • Personal protective equipment. Supplying items such as masks and gloves is one way to limit the spread of germs in your workplace.
    • Vaccinations. Some workplaces are requiring vaccinations, while others are simply encouraging them. Determine your plan by talking to your legal counsel about the best way to handle vaccination for your business.


2.) Return-to-office procedures. Remote work allowed employers to limit the number of people in the workplace. Now, as employees return to the office, a plan for how to do that safely can be helpful in maintaining employees’ health. This might include:

    • Staggered shifts and returns. You may wish to phase in employees in blocks to limit the number of people in the building at one time. This can also include staggering shifts, adding flexible scheduling and hybrid work models (part in-office and part remote).
    • Consider employees’ fears. Some of your workers may not yet feel comfortable returning to the office. Be ready to address this with continued work-at-home privileges, the option for leave, or other options.
    • Notify the state unemployment office. As employees return to work, you’ll need to notify your Unemployment office. Also, consider that not all employees will decide to return, and taking this step can help save on taxes.


3.) Employee benefits. Working with your health insurance company or benefits administrator, you can be sure your benefits stay in compliance with all new regulations. This can include:

    • Waiting periods due to leave, layoff or furlough
    • Deductibles related to telehealth services
    • Premiums paid during leave
    • Changes to flexible spending accounts, such as coverage of over-the-counter medications
    • 401(k) and pension plan eligibility due to layoff or furlough
    • IRS guidelines for hardship withdrawals


Communication is key

At this point, your employees are used to change. But you can ensure a smooth transition when you communicate regularly with your workers to help them understand your return-to-office plan and any changes that may be coming. Conference calls, webinars and emails are a good place to start. Work with department managers to ensure information is disseminated.


Get help managing your risk

If risk management is your concern, Odell Studner is your go-to contact. We’ll help you identify and mitigate risks for a plan that protects your business. To learn more, contact us today!