Back to Work Strategies During COVID-19 Re-entry

Tammy Cohen, PHR, SHRM-CP

August 24 2020

As cases begin to decline in some areas, businesses must adjust, find the new normal, and plan for COVID re-entry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided guidelines for workplaces to minimize risk when reopening. While some procedures and routines may be influenced by the ongoing pandemic, it’s important for workplaces to make necessary changes in order to ensure the continued safety of all staff on-site. If your office is reopening soon, consider utilizing the following preventative measures to maintain a healthy, functional, and safe workplace. Prep your COVID re-entry strategy.

1. Keep Your Distance

The days of sharing desks and crowded break rooms are in the past. During and after COVID re-entry, employees working in the office should strive to maintain six feet of distance between themselves and others whenever possible. This can be achieved through staggered scheduling and A/B days. Divide your workforce into two groups that switch off each day, with one group working from home and the other heading into the office. This decreases the amount of people in the office at any given time. By spacing out which employees come into the office and when, you greatly reduce your chances of an outbreak. If spreading out is not an option, consider reworking your office space so that employees are not facing each other. Other preventative measures include creating one-way foot traffic paths, physical barriers between employees (where possible), and ensuring the office is well-ventilated.

Provide frequent reminders to all staff of the importance of social distancing.
Spaces that are frequented by several people throughout the day, such as conference rooms and break rooms, should limit how many employees can be present at a time. It goes without saying that these shared areas should be cleaned multiple times a day, and if possible after each meeting.

Encourage your employees to practice social distancing outside the workplace as well. The CDC recommends avoiding groups of 10 or more as well as crowded public spaces, such as beaches or malls. Social distancing in and out of the office is the key to reducing risk in the era of COVID-19.

2. Masks Up

A key component in your COVID re-entry  strategy should be mandatory masks. According to the CDC, wearing a cloth mask drastically reduces the chances of transmission from person to person. When your employees enter the building, ensure that they have both a mask and a station to wash or sanitize their hands. Masks must always be worn properly to be effective; CDC guidelines state that masks should cover the nose, mouth, and chin. Recent guidance also discourages masks with valves, as the valve provides an easy escape for virus particles.

Thanks to the pandemic, there are now a wide variety of cloth masks that can be bought in bulk for a low cost. Some companies have even begun to custom print their own masks with company logos to create a sense of uniformity and professionalism. As with social distancing, encourage your employees to wear masks outside of the office as well. By protecting themselves when they go out, employees reduce their chances of exposure and therefore reduce the overall chance of a workplace outbreak.

3. Prepare to Quarantine (Again)

Despite all your precautions for COVID re-entry, it is possible your office may still experience a COVID-19 outbreak. Have a plan for what happens if one or multiple staff members test positive. Any employee who receives a positive COVID-19 test should stay out of the office for a minimum of 14 days or until they receive a negative test result. Employees who interacted with the infected individual should also quarantine out of an overabundance of caution, lest it continue to spread through your staff.

Depending on the size of your business, this may mean temporarily shutting down and once again returning to remote work and Zoom calls. Whatever your business decides, have a plan in place and communicate it clearly to all employees.

4. Healthy Workers Make a Healthy Office

It should go without saying that no employee should come into the office sick during a pandemic. Doing so risks not only their health and safety, but that of their colleagues as well. Many workplaces are adopting measures to ensure no staff member comes in sick, knowingly or not, for responsible COVID re-entry. These include completing a symptom checklist before entering the building and, of course, temperature checks.

The CDC considers any temperature higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit to be a fever. Since COVID-19 does not always cause a true fever, some employers elect to consider an elevated body temperature of 99.5 or higher to be “at risk.” SHRM has provided employers with guidelines for workplace temperature checks. Additionally you should check your local municipality or state for specific guidance. HR experts recommend keeping temperature results confidential. To avoid legal complications, any employee turned away for a high temperature should still receive adequate compensation for the day. Navigating the privacy and health concerns of temperature checks can be stressful for businesses that are already taking extensive measures to protect customers and staff.

About Tammy Cohen

Tammy Cohen, an industry pioneer and expert in identity and employment screening, founded InfoMart 30 years ago. Deemed the “Queen of Screen,” she’s been a force behind industry-leading innovations. She was most recently the first-to-market with a fully compliant sanctions search, as well as a suite of identity services that modernizes talent onboarding. Tammy revolutionized the screening industry when she stepped into the field, developing the first client-facing application and a due diligence criminal search that has since become standard for all background screening companies. Cohen has received national awards and honors for her business and civic involvement, including Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Top 25 Women-Owned Firms in Atlanta, Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year award, the YWCA of Northwest Georgia’s Kathryn Woods Racial Justice Award, and a commendation in the 152nd Congressional Record.

About InfoMart

InfoMart has been revolutionizing the global background and identity screening industry for 30 years, providing businesses the information they need to make informed hiring decisions. They develop innovative technology that modernizes talent onboarding, including a first-to-market biometric identity authentication application and a verified sanctions search. The WBENC-certified company is a founding member of the Professional Background Screening Association, and they have achieved PBSA accreditation in recognition of their consistent business practices and commitment to compliance with the FCRA. The company is dedicated to customer service, speed, and accuracy, and it has been recognized for its success, workplace culture, and corporate citizenship with over 45 industry awards. To Get the Whole Story on InfoMart, please visit, follow @InfoMartUSA, or call (770) 984-2727.

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