coworkers managing risk with elbow bumps
Corporate Culture

Part 2 — Managing Risk As Employees Return to Work

Kari Cooling
Kari Cooling
Sr. Vice President and Managing Director, Brokerage Services - Iowa

No doubt our lives have all changed dramatically — both personally and professionally — since March. As this crisis continues, it’s important to start thinking about bringing your employees back to work.

There are many clinical considerations and safety protocols to consider to keep your employees healthy and establish a safe work environment to mitigate risk. Last week, Dr. Scott Conard took a look at the health aspect of the equation. Today, I’m tackling the work environment.

CDC Key Considerations When Returning to the Office

The CDC recommends two key considerations in preventing spread in and out of the workplace:


This is the minimum 6 ft. social distance recommendation. If you are like me, this will be something that will be a constant challenge, especially when you haven’t seen your colleagues for a long time.

Additionally, consider using flexible or remote work strategies as a phased part of your return-to-the-workplace program. This may include a hybrid schedule, where part of the time is work-from-home and part at the workplace. This should be considered until we can do increased testing or obtain a vaccine.

Disinfection and Sanitization

There are many options for disinfecting and sanitizing the workplace. As a standard practice and considering the hazards of COVID-19, you may consider hiring a professional cleaning company or third-party contractor to clean the facility. The CDC does also recognize self-cleaning protocols.

There are many commercial products available to consider when self-cleaning, so it’s important you follow the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for any product you use. It’s also important employees are trained in its safe use and potential hazards.

10 Other Considerations to Mitigate Risk at the Workplace During COVID-19

Besides following CDC recommendations, we’ve compiled some ways to manage your risk when your employees return to work. Here are several other items you should take into consideration while forming your plan:

Stop the Use of Breakrooms

I know, this seems crazy, right?! This is a key spot where employees usually try and catch up with colleagues, and, unfortunately, it’s hard to maintain social distancing in this setting. In addition, the likelihood of transmission with microwaves, refrigerators, and coffee pots is high.

Look at Your Conference and Meeting Rooms

Use virtual meetings when possible or prevent close contact in the meeting room. This can be accomplished by removing chairs or spacing them out every 6 feet.

Stagger Workforce Break Shift Times to Reduce Physical Interaction

You might also consider rotational shifts; however, this presents additional challenges in consistently disinfecting shared surfaces.

Phase in and Stagger Return-to-the-Workplace by Departments

Avoid having an entire or critical department return at one time. Should an outbreak or confirmed case be found, you wouldn’t want a complete department shutdown.

Survey Your Employees

Consider the use of a questionnaire for employees to determine their own risk level and capability of returning to the workplace. Some companies are having employees complete their symptom checker at home before heading to work — a great practice to avoid sick employees inadvertently infecting others.

Use Assigned Equipment and Avoid Sharing

The alternative to assigned equipment is an increased (and regular) disinfection schedule.

Limit Non-essential Travel

Limiting non-essential travel will mitigate the risk of an outbreak in your office.

Think about Pedestrian Traffic Flow

Consider one-way traffic patterns. You can do this by placing floor markings and signage to help people maintain the right directional flow, while also maintaining the 6-feet separation. Also attempting to find a way to do “one-way” traffic if your office has hallways that connect may support social distancing.

Strategize about Elevator Use

As a best practice, you may consider the use of an elevator operator who can manage this and be the individual to push the floor number, thus minimizing the surface transmission on floor buttons. And, don’t forget to encourage people to use the stairs whenever possible — designate one stairwell as up traffic and one as down when possible to support social distancing.

Promote the Use of Hand Sanitizers

Consider providing hand sanitizers at entrances and areas where common surfaces are touched by employees, such as doors where they cannot be propped open.

Place Floor Markings and Signage

This will help people maintain distance and remind them of the 6’ separation.

Whew — there are a lot of things to consider, and honestly, what I’ve presented is only the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like to take a deeper dive into this, we recently held a webinar called “Managing Risk: What Employers Need to Know as Employees Return to Work.” Feel free to check it out!

We’ve also created a COVID-19 Resource Center with helpful tips, tricks, and important information as we all work through this pandemic experience.

And certainly, if you have any questions about risk management or how we can help you in anyway, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Stay safe, and we can’t wait to see you soon!