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Returning to the Workplace: Post-Pandemic Considerations

Reopening your business may feel like the light at the end of the shutdown tunnel. It is the first step toward opening the economy and restoring normalcy to everyday lives. However, until there is a vaccine, it is crucial to remain vigilant by taking preventative measures to protect the health and wellness of your staff and the communities you serve.

There are multiple factors to measure before reopening your business. Every aspect of operations must consider the health and safety of your community. There are five areas of business operations to consider upon returning to work:

  1. Communication
  2. Prevention
  3. Social Distancing
  4. Empathy
  5. Health Procedures

1. Communication: Remain Transparent

Continued transparency and clarity are vital to your reopening. Prevent confusion among your team by answering these questions before opening your business.

  • Where will your employees find supplies?
  • Who will be responsible for providing supplies?
  • What parts of their workspace will be closed?
  • Will conference rooms and cafeterias remain open?
  • Who will be allowed in the building, and when?
  • What gear will be required to enter the building? Face masks? Gloves?

Communicate with your employees through any and all means. Host online meetings, make phone calls or send out mass texts and emails. Once your workplace reopens, post CDC signage in entryways, bathrooms and other common areas.

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2. Prevention: Protective Gear and Supplies

Have a healthy supply of protective and preventative gear for your employees. Make sure they have access to face masks, gloves, wipes and hand sanitizer. Establish a survey with clear questions for employees to answer before they can return to the office. These questions can include:

  • Do you have COVID-19?
  • Did you have COVID-19?
  • Have you been exposed to COVID-19?
  • Do you have any symptoms associated with COVID-19?

In addition to this assessment, consider taking each employee’s temperature at least once a week or as often as you and your employees deem comfortable. If an employee returns a high temperature, ensure you have a protocol in place to address the situation, such as:

  • Determine if additional symptoms exist; if so, the employee should leave the premises immediately and arrange for coronavirus testing.
  • Determine when that employee can return to work.
  • Perform ‘contact tracing’ and determine whether or not anyone else in the company was exposed.


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3. Social Distancing in the Workplace

Implement plans to maintain social distancing to protect your employees.

  • Administer workflow plans and mark six-foot areas around individual workspaces to help employees remain socially distant in the workplace.
  • Separate your staff into two or more teams. Only allow one group in the office at a time.
  • Install plexiglass for customer-facing staff and employees working close to one another where social distancing is difficult.
  • Restrict the use of common areas like kitchens, break rooms, team rooms and conference rooms.
  • Limit the number of people in an in-person meeting. Use technology for remote meetings whenever possible.
  • Encourage employees to eat lunch at their desks.
  • Keep disinfectant wipes near all doors and keypads. If it does not pose a security risk, keep office doors propped open to limit contact on high-touch surfaces.

Considerations: Remote Work

Though you are moving to open up your workplace, continue to encourage working from home for those who are able. This will continue to help maintain the health and safety of your employees and their families.

Give thought to parents of school-aged children in states where schools have shut down for the remainder of the year. Remote working capabilities will also protect employees who take public transportation to work by limiting their exposure.

Make health supplies available and accessible to employees. Health supplies include items such as face masks, disinfectant, hand sanitizer and soap. Also, offer moisturizer to protect hands from micro-cracks that make them more susceptible to infection.

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4. Empathy: We’re All in this Together

Every person faces a unique impact from the novel coronavirus and deserves respect and kindness from their community, including their employer. Practice empathy and offer accommodations whenever possible when working with your staff to individualize their return to the workplace.

Consider the possible situations your employees faced or are still facing.

  • Testing positive for COVID-19.
  • Caring for a loved one that is infected.
  • Conducting homeschool for their children.
  • Losing a loved one to the virus.

Keep these things in mind while speaking with your employees and establishing protocols for your office.

For further questions or assistance, please contact a member of Withum’s professional team here.

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5. Health Procedures

Your Questions: Answered
There’s no handbook to the ‘new normal’ of business. Everyone has questions as we face these unprecedented times. Withum’s Talent Team has been working around the clock to provide answers to the most pressing and critical issues businesses face when looking to reopen.

What do I do if an employee shows symptoms of COVID-19?

  • Send them home immediately if they aren’t already working from home.
  • Advise them to contact their doctor immediately.
  • Advise them to keep their direct report updated on their status.
  • Deep clean the office if the employee has been there during the last 14 days.
  • Notify Human Resources to send information on how to self-monitor and self-quarantine at home.
  • They should not return to the office until symptoms are gone for 72 hours, without the use of symptom-reducing medication.

What do I do if an employee tests positive for coronavirus?

  • If they learn of this while in office, send them home immediately.
  • Notify all office employees of the exposure and send them home.
  • Deep clean the office.
  • Close the office for 14 days.
  • Identify and notify any employees from other offices who may have visited the office in the last 14 days.
  • Advise all employees to self-monitor for 14 days, and to reach out to a doctor if they start to exhibit symptoms.
  • Notify Human Resources to send information on how to self-monitor and self-quarantine at home.
  • Advise employees to keep in contact with their direct report.
  • Require a doctor’s note that verifies the employee is no longer sick, contagious or COVID-19 positive before they can return to work.

What do I do if an employee’s family member shows symptoms of COVID-19?

  • Advise the employee to work from home or stay home under the terms of the company’s time-off policy. They should practice social distancing and self-monitoring in their home.
  • Notify Human Resources to send guidelines on how to self-monitor and conduct proper social distancing at home.
  • Keep their direct report informed of the status of their family member.
  • They should not return to the office until their family member’s symptoms are gone for 72 hours, without the use of symptom-reducing medication.
  • If the family member develops COVID-19, then follow the guidelines below.

What do I do if an employee’s family member tests positive for COVID-19?

  • Send the employee home immediately if they aren’t already home.
  • The employee must self-quarantine, distance from the sick family member if possible, and self-monitor as per company and CDC guidelines.
  • Notify all office members about exposure.
  • Identify and notify employees from other offices who may have visited the office in the last 14 days.
  • Close office for 14 days.
  • Deep clean the office if the employee has been in the office during the last 14 days.
  • Advise the employee to continue to self-monitor for 14 days after the date in which the family member is considered “recovered.”
    • COVID-19 Recovered is determined by: Two negative swab tests, separated by at least 24 hours, or at least 72 hours after both respiratory symptoms and fever have fully resolved, without the use of symptom reducing medications).
  • If the employee develops symptoms, follow the guidelines above.

What do I do if an employee is possibly exposed to COVID-19?

  • Send the employee home immediately if they aren’t already working from home.
  • Advise them to self-monitor for 14 days.
  • Advise them to keep their direct report updated on their status.
  • Notify office members of the possible exposure.
  • Identify and notify any visiting employees from other offices who may have visited the office in the past 14 days of the possible exposure.
  • Deep clean the office if the employee has been in the office during the last 14 days.
  • Notify Human Resources to should send information on how to self-monitor.
  • Should the employee develop symptoms or test positive for the virus, follow the guidelines above.

What do I do if an employee’s family member is possibly exposed to coronavirus?

  • Send the employee home immediately if they aren’t already working from home.
  • Advise them to self-monitor for 14 days.
  • Advise them to keep their direct report updated on their status.
  • Deep clean the office if the employee has been in the office during the last 14 days.
  • Notify Human Resources to send information on how to self-monitor.
  • Should the employee or their family member develop symptoms of test positive for the virus, follow the guidelines above.

What do I do if COVID-19 is present in the offices of another business in our building?

  • Share any communications from building maintenance with all office members and company leadership.
  • Identify, contact and share details with any employees from other offices who may have visited the building in the last 14 days.
  • Close the office for 14 days.
  • Ensure that building owners plan to deep clean all building facilities. If not, schedule one.
  • Advise employees to self-monitor for 14 days and keep their direct reports abreast of their situations.
  • Advise Human Resources to send information to all office employees on how to self-monitor and conduct proper social distancing at home.
  • Should an employee develop symptoms or test positive for the virus, follow the guidelines above.

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Remember that empathy is key. Every person faces a unique impact from the novel coronavirus. Returning to work and embracing the new normal is an adjustment for everyone. But, with proper planning, you can help make the transition of reopening your business feel as safe and as smooth as possible.

For additional insights to help you and your business during this time, please visit our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Resource Center or reach out to your Withum contact with any other questions or concerns. And, as always, continue to monitor federal and state guidelines as information is made available.

Authors: Theresa Richardson, CPA, PSA | trichardson@withum.com and Joan Kampo | jkampo@withum.com

The New Normal


The recommendations in this article were compiled based on recent conversations with fellow Human Resources colleagues in our profession. Guidance from the medical community is shared daily about the re-entry to the workplace, and we advise you to use this information as a guide only.

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