A second full year of the pandemic is inching closer, and what once promised to be a summer of hope is quickly turning into a fall of questions and concerns about variants, vaccines, and the return to work.
Americans who are fortunate enough to continue working have spent the last 20 months in a work environment most never considered. Now that it appears corporate America is ready to return to offices, leaders are faced with questions from employees, not just about COVID-19 and vaccinations, but also about new work-from-home policies that never existed before.
Nearly 65% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine at this point. While things are certainly looking up, there’s still a lot left for us to figure out before we get back to normal – and workplaces are no exception.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released some post-vaccination considerations for workplaces as they start making plans for employees to return to the office, whether it be full-time or in a hybrid manner.
They include: Conducting a workplace risk assessment for potential COVID-19 exposure, preparing a response plan, and taking steps to improve ventilation.
Ventilation can be key to reducing the spread of the virus, according to the CDC. It recommends employers take a closer look at their HVAC systems and determine if air flow can be improved.
The CDC says this is even more critical as we approach winter months. Indoors, the concentration of viral particles is often higher than outdoors, where even a light wind can rapidly reduce concentrations.
The return to work also presents problems for productivity and company culture, if employees are working in a hybrid situation.
Human Resource managers recommend evaluating employees individually before setting a permanent policy, including the type of work, experience, age, and even personality.
Corporate vaccine mandates also come into play as employees return to the office. The EEOC ruled that employees cannot only require a vaccine, but can also incentivize people to get a shot.
The Delta variant is still surging in some parts of the country, but quickly dropping off in others. Could another variant be around the corner that requires another partial shutdown?
Lingering questions about COVID-19 could be with us for years, and it's always recommended to check with the CDC and OSHA directly as you plan how your business returns close to “normal.”