In March 2020, the ever-present concern about COVID-19 was unavoidable. School buildings were shuttered, workplaces were shut down, and employees were by and large working from home.
19 months later, the world of work is still coping with the effects of COVID-19 as employees begin returning to offices and cubicles more and more. While on the surface it may look like “business as usual,” everyone is still dealing with the possibility of having a COVID-19 outbreak and doing everything they can to prevent that from happening.
For HR professionals, that means establishing a thorough process to screen employees for signs of COVID-19 to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for everyone. In this article, we will show you some of the things you need to do or consider in HR to make sure everyone is properly screened and kept healthy.
Make Your Workplace COVID-19 Secure
Before employees return, it is your responsibility to make sure the physical environment of your workspace is conducive to following safety guidelines from the CDC as well as any other state or federal guidelines you might have to follow.
Some of these guidelines that you need to account for may include:
- Social distancing
- Protective barriers at desks
- PPE for all employees including whether masks need to be worn and in what areas or circumstances
- Designated movement flows
- Increased hand washing or sanitizing stations
Make returning to work in-person as safe as possible with some of these simple considerations that help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Set Up COVID-19 Screening Procedures
While the CDC has not made COVID-19 screening a must in the workplace, it is still highly recommended to help slow the spread. While not mandatory, there are a lot of benefits to a regular screening process such as reducing the spread, strengthening contact tracing procedures, and providing peace of mind to employees that things are being taken seriously and their health and wellbeing is a priority.
When it comes to who you should screen, it is a good rule of thumb to screen anyone who passes a physical threshold like a reception area or anyone who spends significant time at your workplace.
This might include:
- All employees working in the building
- Visitors including clients, contractors, or vendors
- Anyone entering a non-public section of the workplace
For people such as delivery drivers or others who make brief stops with limited interaction, you might want to develop a special protocol for them.
When screening employees, it is important to check with your local and state guidelines as some screening points differ from others. Some things you could do to screen people in your workplace include:
- Temperature checks. Make sure you know what threshold temperature your state views as safe.
- Questionnaires. Ask visitors or employees if they are experiencing:
- Shortness of breath
- A new cough
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Contact Tracing. Briefly ask employees if they have tested positive or if they have been exposed to someone who tested positive.
Before beginning screening, make sure to communicate clearly with all employees what the screening process will look like and why it is important to your workplace. Also, make sure to conduct the screening as privately as possible to avoid the whole office knowing everyone’s health status.
Passing or Not Passing a Screening
If an employee or visitor has no exposure and is reporting experiencing no symptoms, what to do next is quite simple: Go on with the workday using whatever PPE or cleaning processes your workplace has established.
However, if an employee does not pass the screening, do not let the employee enter the workspace and keep them socially distanced from all others. Help with transportation arrangements home if needed, and then follow the public health advice that has been issued for your city or state regarding testing, quarantining, and returning to work.
As an HR representative, your concerns for workplace safety have probably never been as great as they have been during this global pandemic. However, a few changes to your work environment and your arrival procedures could mean a world of difference when it comes to slowing or stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.