Safe Return - What does it mean, and can you do it?

With the onset of COVID-19, the future of work has advanced to the present. The next normal is here - so what does that mean for returning to the workplace?

Sept 15, 2020

With the onset of COVID-19, the future of work has advanced to the present. The next normal is here - so what does that mean for returning to the workplace? How can employers and their HR departments actively prevent the spread of Coronavirus among their employees? “It’s all about re-evaluating and reinforcing protocols, as well as revamping communications platforms to build a feeling of safety within workforces,” says Dina Karim, Executive Director of People at ITWorx, a full-service and global technology provider that specializes in building corporate OS solutions suites. We sat down with Karim and came up with ways that companies can start to facilitate a safe return to work. Here were our top five takeaways:

  1. 1. Limit contact.

    According to the CDC, limiting physical contact among employees will be crucial to controlling the spread of COVID-19. The CDC’s suggestions for doing so include:

    1. Allowing flexible worksites (such as options to work from home where that is possible).
    2. Staggering shifts.
    3. Separating workspaces so that the physical distance between employees is at least 6 feet.
    4. Limiting the number of employees on site.
    5. Limiting employee gatherings.
  2. 2. Identifying and isolating potentially infectious people.

    According to a report by McKinsey & Company, being able to track, identify, and isolate sources of potential infection is going to be necessary for a safe return to office work. This can be done through two methods:

    1. Checking temperatures at entrance and exit from the workplace: Fevers are an extremely common symptom of Coronavirus, and usually an early indicator of the infection.
    2. Contact tracing: Digitally tracing the groups and individuals that a potentially infected employee has been in contact with will be critical for early intervention and prevention of the spread of Coronavirus in a workplace.
  3. 3. Use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and development of thorough hygiene protocols.

    The next normal does not exist without masks, both for employees and on-site clients. According to the latest reports by the CDC, frequent mask use could slow and prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially when worn within universally and within communities. In addition to masks, personal protective equipment can include latex gloves, eye coverings, and more. In addition to PPE, new hygiene protocols that involve frequent hand washing and sanitizing will need to be put in place.

  4. 4. Reinforcement of new protocols.

    Much like workplace cultural protocols, these new office policies won’t adequately protect employees unless they are strictly enforced. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, respondents to the survey said that they were either already using or planned to use “a range of fundamental change-management practices.” Respondents also reported leaders role modeling safe behavior and implementing trainings to make sure employees know what to do. The full report can be viewed here.

  5. 5. Strong communication channels.

    Releasing critical information to the right teams is more important now than ever. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, it is crucial that their teammates know immediately so they can adequately isolate and protect their immediate household members. In the era of social bubbles and quarantines, an infallible internal communications platform is key to a safe return to the office.

“This is a difficult time,” says Dina Karim, “But that doesn’t mean it has to be dangerous. Safe return to work is possible if employers keep these things in mind.” According to Karim,, this is one small step towards going back to normal – or rather, moving into the next normal.