CDC Releases Decision Tree and Checklist for Re-opening Workplaces

Back in March, employers made sudden and significant changes to the way employees work. Every industry applied what many hoped would be temporary measures to address the risk of COVID-19, including work from home when possible, and increased cleaning, social distancing, and PPE measures for employees who couldn’t work from home. Now, several weeks later, employers are looking to re-open and regain lost revenue while keeping employees, customers, and visitors safe.

To that end, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released two documents to help employers make decisions regarding re-opening and how to do that safely.

First, they published an easy to read decision tree to help employers decide if it is safe to re-open. Then this week, they released new step-by-step guidance on how to re-open office buildings. Each step includes links and guidance on how to comply.

  • Check the building to see if it’s ready for occupancy.
  • Identify where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work.
  • Engineering controls: Isolate workers from the hazard.
  • Administrative controls: Change the way people work.
  • Educate employees and supervisors about steps they can take to protect themselves at work.
  • Take actions to maintain a healthy work environment for your employees and clients.

While all the steps are important, the one labeled “change the way people work” is of great interest to HR and risk management personnel. The checklist addresses not only actions to take, but also cultural messaging. For example, they say, “Actively encourage employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 to notify their supervisor and stay home.” They are addressing messaging and culture in addition to actions.

Another point they make is to “Stagger shifts, start times, and break times as feasible to reduce the density of employees in common areas such as screening areas, break rooms, and locker rooms.”  The CDC says employers should allow employees to change work hours to a) reduce the number of employees in a building at a given time and b) allow them to commute to work at off-peak times, especially for those who use public transport. Again, this is not just a change in actions, but operational, systemic, and cultural change.

Finally, they discuss communication, policies, and posters employers should be adding to employee communications. The tone of the publication is that employers should begin to embrace long-term change over the temporary mitigation we have been using so far. Employers Council is here to help; please call us for consultation.