best practices to safely return to work.

After weeks of adapting to the realities of a coronavirus outbreak by closing our workplaces, implementing remote work policies, and enforcing physical distancing, employers are now beginning to anticipate the return to work. Business recovery is on the horizon, but it’s crucial to continue following best practices to minimize further spread of COVID-19. As workers return to their offices, warehouses, stores, and restaurants, we encourage everyone to follow proper hygiene practices as recommended by the World Health Organization. To slow transmission of the virus, stay informed about the progression of the virus and follow the advice provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada. We’ve come to understand that the most efficient solution to reduce the spread of the virus is to reduce contact with other people.  

If you're operating a small or medium-sized business, you may not have the tools or expertise to navigate the challenges of reopening on your own. Many of the tools and resources that are available from governments are overwhelming and confusing. Our end-to-end guides break down the reopening process into straight-forward steps and walk you through considerations to develop a solid return to work plan that puts health and safety first. Select the best guide to walk you through your reopening process.

Returning to work and maintaining physical distancing will be a major challenge for many businesses. We miss socializing, too! However, to avoid impeding progress, we must continue following strict hygiene guidelines. 

Prevention is the best way to keep your workplace healthy as we slowly recover from the pandemic. When the government announces that we can return to work, here are best practices to maintain a safe and healthy work environment.

best practices to safely return to work

have a plan 

Let employees know that you are looking ahead and that you will keep them informed about best practices. It’s important that you are able to answer questions they have such as: What if I get sick? How can I take time off? How will you ensure the workplace is safe? Compile frequently asked questions and make this document available to your employees. 

communicate even if the situation is unchanged 

Worry and fear often increase in the absence of up-to-date information. Let your employees know that they can expect regular updates from you. Communicate with them, even if the situation remains unchanged. This will be reassuring and help keep everyone calm. 

set up recurring meetings with your employees. 

Aim to have meetings daily or several times a week at a minimum. This will allow you to check-in and ensure everything is going well. Your employees will feel supported and it allows them to ask questions, raise concerns, and bring new ideas forward. Keep in mind that everyone is in this together. Keeping communication channels open ensures employees have a voice during this challenging time and allows you to check on how they’re coping with this exceptional situation. When hosting the meetings, follow the hygiene practices and recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

educate employees about proper health and safety practices 

Prevention remains the best way to maintain good health in the workplace as we come to terms with the COVID-19 pandemic. To minimize the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace, you should:  

  • wash your hands frequently 
  • when you wash your hands, use hot soapy water for a minimum of 30 seconds 
  • sneeze and cough into your sleeve instead of your hands 
  • avoid touching your face 
  • dispose of used tissues immediately 

Refer regularly to the Public Health Agency of Canada to be up-to-date on safety practices for your business. 

ensure employees keep their workspace clean

They should wipe down their workspace and things they touch often (desk, keyboard, phone, etc.) with anti-bacterial cleaner frequently. 

refrain from hugging, handshakes and cheek kissing 

Request that employees refrain from physical contact with others in your workplace. 

Even though it’s a standard social practice in most cultures to greet colleagues, clients or other work contacts by shaking their hand or kissing them on the cheek, these are exceptional times. Employees should politely turn down handshakes or any other physical contact 

practice smart eating habits at work 

Employees should always wash their hands before eating. Avoid sharing snacks and food in the workplace, especially from community bowls. Opt for single-serve portions or sanitized utensils, instead. 

ask employees to avoid unnecessary public spaces

Crowded public spaces such as airports and public transit increase exposure to viruses. Request that employees avoid unnecessary travel or spending time in public spaces at this time. Although most people aren’t travelling, enforce mandatory rules for self- isolation if employees have travelled recently. 

employees who feel sick should work from home 

If an employee experiences symptoms like fever, sore throat, coughing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, headaches or ear pain, they should stay home, even if they think their symptoms are minor. They should use sick days or, if they can, work from home until they feel better. 

carefully monitor the health of your workforce

Before the start of each shift, screen employees for signs or symptoms of illness (such as a cough, fever, runny nose, etc.) You may also ask screening questions to employees about their health or recent travel. If anyone shows signs of being sick, ask them to self-isolate for 14 days. They may work from home, or take time off depending on the severity of their illness. 

 

The information provided is only intended to be a general summary. It is not intended to take the place of either the written law or regulations. Further, given the rapidly revolving spread of COVID-19, the information may not be up to date. We encourage readers to review the specific statutes, regulations and other interpretive materials for a full and accurate statement of their contents. 

If you're starting to build your business recovery plan, we have lots of resources to support you. Visit our business recovery website for tools and guidance.

learn more

For additional information on current best practices we are following, please refer to these organizations: