Safe Return to Work

With the CDC reporting on the upward trend of cases in areas across the United States, now, more than ever, businesses need to be reassessing their implementation plans to ensure that their work environments are safe and productive. Both the creation and deployment of these plans will likely require input from all levels and departments of an organization. From C-level executives to Human Resources departments, an effective return to work plan will require all hands on deck.


Set your firm up for success by starting with the selection an internal Project Manager (PM). This PM will be responsible for documenting your project plans, assigning task owners, outlining start and end dates and hosting regular status meetings to keep a pulse on progress. The organization and communication structure provided by a dedicated PM is crucial in times such as these.


Whether your firm assigns a formal PM or not, you can rely on checklists such as this to ensure that your firm is approaching the pending return to work transition holistically.


Questions to ask when beginning to outline your plan:

  • What is your anticipated return to work date?
  • If your company has multiple locations, will you open all locations at once or one at a time? Are there varying state and local ordinances that will affect this decision?
  • If your office is housed in a rented space, what plans do the building/management company have in place to support a safe return to work?
  • Will you stagger employee return in groups or all at once?
  • How are your employees feeling about returning to work? Consider creating and issuing a survey to vet questions, capabilities and ultimately define the firm’s exposure that will result from staff returning to work.
  • Are you considering a multi-phased approach to mimic state roll out plans instead of a one hit plan?



  • Who will be responsible for reviewing all OSHA and CDC guidelines to ensure compliance?
  • If applicable, what health screening protocols do you plan to put in place for staff? For example, will employees be required to wear face coverings at all times? Will you utilize temperature scanners at office entrances?
  • How do you plan to communicate these protocols to employees in a way that instills confidence?
  • Who will be responsible for ensuring compliance of these protocols? Consider establishing an internal “Safety Committee” responsible for encouraging efforts as well as fielding questions.
  • Are there common areas in your office space that you plan to keep open/accessible that will need separate regulations (lobby, lunchroom, etc)? If so, how will your protocols differ in these areas?
  • Will your cleaning procedures need to be altered? Do you utilize an outside vendor for cleaning services? If so, what precautions are they taking in preparation for the return to work. Will you supplement with an internal cleaning schedule during the workday?
  • What additional supplies will you need to begin ordering and stocking to provide to staff? Sanitizers, disposable masks, etc? Be sure to consider any delays due to supply chain disruptions.


Interaction with Visitors Guests:

  • Will your office allow for the admittance of guests/visitors? If so, what health screening protocols will you put in place?
  • Does your office receive deliveries (mail, shipments, etc) and what protocols will you put in place to ensure safe receipt of these items?


Policy Checklist to consider documenting:

  • COVID-19 Return to Work Policy specific to your firm
  • ADA Accommodations
  • Federal/State/Local Ordinances
  • PTO/WFH Policies


Additional Considerations:

  • What additional trainings can/should be provided to your employees?
  • Do you have a separate plan in place should your office not plan to return to work?

Your employees will be looking to you for guidance, compassion and encouragement during this time. Being prepared with documented plans, as well as communicating often and openly, is critical for creating a safe return to the workplace.

Cara Zibbell
Cara Zibbell

Cara is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and the Vice President of People & Engagement at Atrium. With a passion for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, her career journey is dedicated to developing people and their potential.