It is likely that you will be able to bring employees who have been furloughed or working from home back into the workplace soon. Having a plan to bring them back safely is important. There are things you can do now to be prepared when the time comes.

Proactively prevent the spread of illness
There are many things you can do to help prevent the spread of illness in your workforce. First, make sure you are encouraging sick employees to stay home. Your company communications, managers, paid time off policy, and absence policy should support this. Encourage frequent handwashing. Make sure your restrooms and other common areas are stocked with soap and paper towels. Provide hand sanitizer in areas where handwashing is not feasible. Keep the workspace clean, focusing on frequently touched areas. Provide supplies to employees to keep their work areas clean.

Consider work from home options or flexible scheduling
While it may not be ideal, having some employees continue to work from home temporarily can limit the number of people coming into the workplace. If work from home is not feasible, consider flexible scheduling options that would reduce the number of employees in the workplace each day.

Rethink your workplace layout
Does your space allow for six feet of separation between most employees? If not, it may be time to try to rethink the design of your workplace. Rethink common areas where employees congregate. Restrict public access and discourage visitors whenever possible. Discourage employees from using their co-workers’ phones, desks, and other work tools and equipment.

Ask your employees for feedback
As you make your plans for what your workplace will look like when the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak is reduced, ask your employees for their feedback. If you have employees currently working from home, ask them what they like about it and what challenges they have faced. Ask employees if they feel safe returning to the office and find out what they need from you to feel safer.

Communicate clearly
One of the biggest concerns for employees right now is the uncertainty of the future. Communicate with employees regularly about your plans. Give employees as much time as possible to plan for their return as well. Employees may have to find new childcare or transit options. Providing as much information e as early as possible will help.

Even though the timing is uncertain, planning now can help ensure that your team has a smooth transition back into the workplace.