What employers, vendors and customers need to know about returning to the workplace

Woman wearing a mask seated in front of laptop sprays sanitizer into a cloth.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted your company’s approach to many processes, including janitorial tasks and human resources practices. Because your company has unique policies already, the checklists below may not be a comprehensive guide. However, you can use them to kick start ideas, explore more information and help you build appropriate processes for your company.

“We are planning something for which there is no direct precedent,” said Tim State, senior vice president, Associate Health and Well-being, for Humana. “Businesses need to be hyper-aware and adaptive.” Guidance also varies by industry, company size and location.

“Addressing the psychological safety of employees has to start with understanding the unprecedented emotional needs that employees will be bringing with them when the doors open,” State said. “Employees will be grappling with concerns of both catching the virus and the risk of potentially exposing their family, colleagues or others. That reality, combined with other uncertainties and pressure means many people sometimes won’t be at their best, so employers need to continually find ways to help their employees speak up for support and build resilience together.”

Encourage employees to practice self-care and ease their return by giving them tools such as tips for recognizing and addressing their emotional needs and maintaining a healthy work environment. Below are checklists on aspects of resuming work at your business.

Safety protocols

  • Practice social distancing and limit meetings or other gatherings.
  • Provide visible resources that promote personal hygiene, such as tissues, no-touch trash receptacles, hand sanitizer and paper towels.
  • Post signs in restrooms reminding people to wash their hands thoroughly.
  • Be sure to have employees use proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Communicate that employees should always wash their hands after touching common surfaces, such as door knobs, and after removing any PPE.

Cleaning and disinfecting

  • Determine which surfaces require regular cleaning with soap and water and which surfaces may need more frequent disinfecting. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, in most cases, “Outdoor areas generally require normal routine cleaning and do not require disinfection.” Similarly, areas that have been unoccupied for 7 or more days likely only need routine cleaning, since “COVID-19 has not been shown to survive on surfaces longer than this time.”1
  • Always wear appropriate gloves and other PPE, both to protect from coronavirus and from the chemicals being used as disinfectants, and encourage your employees to do the same.
  • Clean all surfaces with soap and water first, before using disinfectant. Then, when you’re ready to disinfect frequently touched surfaces—such as door knobs, light switches and desks—use a disinfectant from the EPA’s list, opens new window.
  • Because EPA-approved disinfectants may be in short supply, you can mix one-third cup of bleach added to one gallon of water. You can also use 70% alcohol solutions to disinfect. Warning: Do not mix bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products together. For more in-depth information, visit the CDC’s website on Cleaning and disinfecting your facility, opens new window.

Child care, time off and flexible scheduling

  • Ensure that appropriate child care options are in place, or provide information to employees about child care options. Remember, just because your company may be returning to work, that doesn’t mean all child care centers will be operating.
  • Consider how you can adjust your time off or remote work policies.
  • Allow employees to stay home, as needed, to care for sick family members.

Financial considerations

  • Review any retirement or other employee benefit programs that may have been altered, and ensure employees are aware of any updates as they occur.
  • Be sure to highlight any existing resources that provide financial information and options to employees.

Legal, ethical and privacy considerations

  • Assign legal counsel to review all business decisions related to an infectious disease outbreak.
  • Consult county, city, state and federal laws and regulations as you put together your reentry plan.
  • Follow HIPAA and other data privacy laws to avoid privacy invasion and discrimination claims.


  1. “Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed January 13, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html, opens new window.