Suggested Best Practices – Returning to Work

Created: 15 May 2020

Suggested Best Practices – Returning to Work

Throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce (OCCC) has recognized the balance needed to safeguard public health and safety while protecting New Jersey’s economy. New Jersey businesses are eager to get back to work and provide their products and services. The health and safety of their employees, clients and customers are their top priority. 

Based on the best practices shared by employers in New Jersey’s critical industries, OCCC is offering the following guidelines and suggestions to assist our member companies in their efforts to provide safe workplaces for their employees and customers as they come back online. Specific metrics will determine reopening, with the appropriate balance being struck among data-driven testing and tracing, the ability to assess risk and the ability to safely operate with ongoing CDC guidance, other industry specific guidance and/or social distancing opportunities known to mitigate exposure.  By implementing best practices, businesses are still subject to the restrictions of current or future executive orders and should be guided accordingly.

Prepare Your Workplace 

  • Identify a workplace coordinator who will be responsible for COVID-19 issues and their impact at the workplace. Examine policies for leave, telework, and employee compensation. Distribute and post required posters informing employees of leave laws that have gone into effect due to COVID-19. It is a good idea to have an attorney review your employee handbook and policies to ensure you are up to date. 

  • Leave policies should be flexible and non-punitive, and allow sick employees to stay home and away from co-workers. Leave policies should also account for employees who need to stay home with their children if there are school or childcare closures, or to care for sick family members. 

  • When possible, use flexible worksites (e.g., telework) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts) to help establish policies and practices for social distancing (maintaining distance of approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) between employees and others, especially if social distancing is recommended by state and local health authorities. 

  • Review your leave policies with all employees and provide information about available employee assistance services. Share information on steps they can take to protect themselves at work and at home. Identify essential employees and business functions, and other critical inputs such as raw materials, suppliers, subcontractor services/products, and logistics required to maintain business operations. Explore ways you can continue business operations if there are disruptions. 

  • Cross-train employees so that essential business functions can continue in the event of disruptions to business due to absence, or other events causing significant absenteeism that may effect business.  

  • Prepare business continuity plans for significant absenteeism, supply chain disruptions, or changes in the way you need to conduct business. 

  • Establish an emergency communications plan. Identify key contacts (with backups), chain of communications (including suppliers and customers), and processes for tracking and communicating about business and employee status. 

  • Share your response plans with employees and clearly communicate expectations. It is important to let employees know plans and expectations for COVID-19 outbreaks which may occur in communities where you have a workplace.

Travel Policy Suggestions 

  • Require a two-week quarantine for employees who return from outside of the country or a domestic COVID-19 hotspot. 

  • Discourage employees from attending events with large gatherings. The definition of large gatherings should be consistent with CDC, state and industry guidance.

Customer Engagement 

  • Offer call-ahead services, curbside delivery and ask customers to stay in their vehicles while they wait.  

  • Offer drive-through service where available.  

  • Limit the number of customers in the facility to ensure appropriate distancing, along with visual markers on floors for 6-foot distancing, per CDC guidance. 

  • Add plastic barriers/shields at registers or counters. 

  • Provide proper signage and hand sanitizer at entry points. Telling customers what you are doing to keep safe will instill a sense of confidence. 

  • Encourage face coverings. 

  • Keep common areas properly and regularly sanitized. 

  • Provide on-site services to customer facilities during slow periods or after hours, where appropriate. 

  • Conduct virtual sales calls.  

  • Create messaging explaining all the steps your business has taken to open safely.

Tips to Protect Employees 

  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home without fear of reprisals. Ensure all employees are aware of this policy. 

  • If you decide to monitor employees’ temperatures, assign an employee representative or third-party vendor to do so. If employees present with symptoms, they should be sent home. 

  • Decide if you will require the use of face masks if not already required for your industry, and whether you will provide them. 

  • Understand your employees’ concerns. Some employees may be at higher risk for severe illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has updated its guidance on COVID-19 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), clarifying how to accommodate individuals who are at high risk for severe illness from the coronavirus. Ensure that you are up to date on these requirements. 

  • Communicate to your employees what you are doing to keep them safe, such as what cleaning and sanitation procedures are being done and how often. 

  • Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees. Ensure that they understand your workplace policies regarding sick employees staying home, encourage them to incorporate similar policies into their employment agreements and make sure these issues are also addressed in any agreement or contract you have with the company. 

  • Promote etiquette for coughing and sneezing and handwashing. Proper signage should be displayed in obvious common areas. Provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, soap and water, and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 

  • Plan to implement practices to minimize face-to-face contact between employees while social distancing recommendations remain in effect. 

  • Perform routine environmental cleaning according to CDC recommendations, using an EPA recommended cleaning product where possible. Routinely clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces, such as workstations, countertops, handrails, and doorknobs. Discourage sharing of tools and equipment, if feasible.

Communications & Signage 

  • Post internal signage that can be used to alert or remind employees/customers/vendors about guidelines and expectations and responsibilities. 

  • Post external signs on doors alerting visitors to restrictions on entry and movement in and around facility as well as any applicable guidelines and expectations. 

  • Communicate and educate employees and management to carry out the plan and protocols, as well as provide clear direction on roles and responsibilities. Post signs on doors to instruct customers and visitors on your safety protocols. 

  • Provide remote workers with a list of free resources to stay healthy and active at home (i.e. ergonomic tips, stress-relief tools, fitness resources). 

  • Provide pre-recorded safety training videos for customer-facing activities. 

  • Maintain an up-to-date repository on the company’s shared network that allows employees to access all COVID-19 documents, resources, and company protocol.


  • Request health and travel assessments for vendors/contractors coming onsite. 

  • Separate contractors and vendors from the workforce by having them use separate entrances and bathrooms if possible. 

  • Prohibit nonessential vendors and deliveries from entering facility. 

  • Require deliveries to be dropped outside facility door, eliminating vendors from entering facility. 

  • If vendors need to enter the building, ensure they sign in and utilize hand sanitizer at the entry point.

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