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COVID-19 Planning Tips for Workplace Re-Entry

May 21, 2020

COVID-19 Planning Tips for Workplace Re-Entry

5 Minute Read

As you begin your new normal, these six considerations will help make the transition as smooth as possible.

Cliff Trollope
Cliff Trollope, CBCP, CRM, CAS, BA
Partner, National Leader, Business Resilience Services
Hussam Malek
Hussam Malek, P.Eng., PMP, MBA

While organizations are anxious to get employees back into the workplace, they must keep in mind that determining who will return and when they will return is a complex process. Health authority guidelines, local government requirements, sector issues, job-specific risks and landlord policies must be considered along with ensuring employees feel safe returning to work. The areas outlined below can help ensure you are addressing the key areas required for an effective re-entry into the workplace.

Be Informed and Follow Guidance: Confirm guidance from health authorities, your local government and sector specific requirements for reopening buildings to workers. This should include landlord policies, procedures and/or rules for building re-entry and occupation. Consider researching the following:

  • Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial health authority websites
  • Municipal guidance
  • Guidance from your industry/professional associations and governing bodies
  • Engaging directly with your landlord

Prepare the Physical Space: Develop plans to meet social distancing guidelines, reconfigure work areas, ensure proper Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”) is available and cleaning is done. Establish new workplace protocols and communicate them via signage posted throughout the workplace. Considerations should include but are not limited to:

  • Identify congestion points and create "traffic signs" to control flow of traffic
  • Rearrange furniture and workspaces to promote physical distancing
  • Ensure appropriate supplies of sanitizer, wipes, masks and consider requirement for plexiglass shields
  • Establish protocols for regular cleaning and sanitization of work areas

People Preparations: Take measures to ensure your employees feel safe and confident to return to work - and train them on the new protocols. In addition, prepare in advance to deal with concerns your employees may have and  are ready to deal with their issues.  Consider opportunities to develop redundant teams by rotating their entry into the physical workspace so that critical roles can be supported even in the event of team members becoming ill.  Physical preparations to your physical workspaces will help build confidence and you should also consider the following:

  • Commuting challenges, at-risk employees / family members, childcare availability
  • Both the minimum and maximum number of people who should be in the workplace
  • Survey of employees at to who needs / wants to return to the workplace
  • Plan to address employee anxiety
  • Plan for "refusal to return to office" scenario
  • Develop protocol on what to do if an employee feels ill
  • Review / update human resource policies to ensure they are applicable to the “new normal”

Key to protecting employees is also considering job-specific health and transmission risks and ensuring you have established protocols for ensuring employee roles can be carried out safely. 

Prepare Your Customers, Partners and Vendors: Your customers, partners and vendors need to feel as confident as your employees when visiting your location. Consider the following:

  • Identify key vendors who physically attend onsite and communicate directly with them on your protocols, as well as your expectations of them when on premise
  • Issue communication to customers, partners and vendors on physical distancing procedures and other protocols you have in place
  • Create / update processes on physical visits and meetings
  • Determine control points and protocol for deliveries, trades, partners, etc.
  • In the event that your employees are required to conduct customers, partners and vendors site visits/meetings, establish a process for assessing protocols at these sites for ensuring the safety of your employees and address any concerns with your customers, partners and vendors

Communicate with Confidence:  Communications is critical when returning to work. Ensure you have a comprehensive and ongoing communications plan for employees, customers and supply chain partners.  Consider the following:

  • Develop and document a communications plan
  • Post to website and leverage all communications means
  • Post physical safety protocols (reminders to wash hands, directions on how many people in a room, etc.)
  • Communicate cleaning protocols to promote awareness and confidence in safety precautions

Prepare for a Setback: Confirm that contingency plans/critical response mechanisms are in place in the event that the reopening should fail or the virus reoccurs and forces additional closures.  This includes:

  • Determining whether your Business Continuity Plan includes an up to date list of the essential roles and individuals included in re-entry so that there is a baseline for delivering services
  • Creating phased and “quick close” plans to shut down in the event the virus reoccurs and forces new closures
  • Confirm emergency evacuation procedures are in compliance with social distancing requirements of local authorities.

How MNP Can Help

  • Assistance with navigating the various guidance from health authorities, local government and sector specific requirements.
  • Development and refinement of plans to prepare of ra setback
  • Coaching to prepare your workspace.
  • General advice to help navigate all evolving COVID-19-related business response and market changes
  • Cyber security protection strategies


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