This framework outlines employment considerations in planning a return to more normal operations. It is organized in building blocks. Section A applies to all employers. Other sections define issues based on levels of business impact.

In general, you should begin or complete:

  • Preparing your facilities
  • Developing new policies, as needed. (i.e. telework, safety)
  • Creating a physical distancing plan
  • Controlling access for safety and health issues
  • Increased cleanliness, reduced touch points
  • Enhanced employee communications

Many professional and industry organizations have specific return-to-work guidelines too. Check for those in your arena.


1. Strategic review

Impact of current/planned business changes on employment and employees
Changes due to states of emergency impact plus 2-5 below

2. Community Preparedness needed to support for return to work

  • Schools/daycare open
  • Public transportation – normal schedules
  • Medical care available
  • Food services

3. Building/Office Preparations

  • Increased sanitation and air-handling building-wide
  • Office cleaning services enhanced
  • Physical distancing/barriers for employees and visitors
  • Need for personal protection equipment (PPE), if any
  • Common space changes (i.e. closed kitchens, conference rooms)
  • Employee responsibilities and cleaning resources for desks, work area, hygiene

4. Employee Concerns

Consider a survey to determine individual needs and concerns

Vacation/Paid-time-off, if offered:
     Fiscal year ends in Jun – Sep and you cap carryover, what changes are smart?
     FY = CY, will you need restrictions on use through Dec 2020 to meet business needs?


CDC Guidelines    Guidelines for Business

The EEOC is allowing some medical checks or self-reporting for coronavirus symptoms or exposure. Will you require any checks or self-certification on health each day? If so, how will you maintain required confidentiality? How implement?

6. Legal Issues

All employers:
     OSHA – requires provide safe workplaces
     HIPAA – treat medical information as confidential
     FFCRA – requires paid coronavirus-related leave
Paid Leave FAQs

Over 15 employees:
     EEO – requires non-discrimination in treatment (e.g. retention, medical checks)
     ADA – equal treatment of employees with disabilities or believed to be disabled

Added Resource: Practical Considerations for Return to Office plans
Practical Tips for Planning


B. All Employees Retained, Some/all had Remote Work Invoked (above plus these)

1. Who Returns to Employer Facilities When

  • Current work needs
  • Workspace/Social Distancing considerations
  • Public Transportation Availability and Employee Usage/Concerns

2. Telework

  • Do you need new or amended policy for telework options?
  • Will you extend telework temporarily to address vulnerable populations, child-care, elder-care, or other employee concerns?
  • Will you extend telework options in general?
  • Communicate telework plans/intentions in advance

C. Some to Many Employees Not Working (above plus these)

1. Told employees they were furloughed or laid-off:
Usually the first brought back
Plan to bring back: all at once or smaller numbers? If smaller: by position type or specific skills or seniority or other standard?

2. Told employees they were terminated:
No obligation to bring back – but enhances morale and reduces costs of hiring/training to do so.

3. Told employees it was a reduction in force (RIF):
Legally risky to fill such positions in less than 6-12 months.

4. If you got Payroll Protection Program (PPP) approval:
Have eight weeks from date of loan to use, currently
May be for existing or replacement employees

Information on how to ensure maximum forgiveness
Ways to improve loan forgiveness amounts

D. Business Shutdown due to government mandates or business conditions

What pivots or business changes were necessary?
What external support (SBA, SBDC, SCORE, other) could you tap for help to rebuild or close?
How did pivots or monetary losses impact ability to rebuild staff?
Will you use freelancers, consultants, or contractors instead of employees in some roles now?
If you cannot rebuild, what support do you need to close the business in most effective manner?

Need to work through some issues or concerns here?  Happy to help.