Reopening and Returning – The Move from Lockdown to Baby Steps

As you are no doubt aware, we are in Phase 2 of BC’s restart plan.  It needs to be acknowledged that not everyone is ready to reopen or transition back into the workplace.  Each business and organization is going to be in different stages of readiness and approach reopening differently to ensure the health and safety of their employees and clients.

There is no perfect solution to reopening.  This will be a process of evolution, learning, changing direction and implementing new ways of operating in our physical and virtual spaces.  There are some fundamentals that need to be considered when reopening.

Sick Leave

Sick leave and how employers treat ill employees has changed.  It is now a recommended best practice that employees self-screen each day before coming to work.  Any employee experiencing a combination of the following symptoms should not come to work:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Painful swallowing
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Headache
  • Muscle Aches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of Appetite

In addition, an employee experiencing a combination of the above symptoms should remain out of the workplace for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms or until the symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.  During this time, if the employee is feeling well enough, there may be opportunities to have them work from home.

In cases where an employee tests positive for COVID-19, it is recommended that the employee receive a negative test or be cleared by their physician prior to returning to the workplace.

Cleaning and Sanitizing

COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.  COVID-19 will naturally die on surfaces within hours to days depending on the surface.  Warmer temperatures and exposure to sunlight will reduce the time it takes for COVID-19 to naturally die.  Cleaning and sanitizing objects and surfaces, especially those that are frequently touched can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  When cleaning and sanitizing, consider the following:

  • Elevators
  • Washrooms
  • Kitchens
  • Tools
  • Photocopiers
  • Telephones
  • Common Areas and Lunchrooms
  • Reception and waiting areas

Don’t forget that the simplest things, hand washing, not touching your face, and proper cough and sneeze etiquette can have the most significant impact to protect you and those around you.

Physical Distancing

Physical distancing, keeping a minimum of 2 meters (6 feet) away from one another, continues to be of primary significance in controlling the risk of COVID-19 transmission and exposure.  As employees transition back into the workplace the following will need to be considered:

  • What is the maximum number of people you can have attend work and still maintain physical distancing?
  • How will you reconfigure workspaces to maintain appropriate distance between employees, and between employees and clients or visitors?
  • Will you need to install physical barriers between employees and between employees and clients or visitors;
  • How will you schedule appointments, organize waiting areas and address drop-ins to limit contact between employees and clients or visitors?
  • How will you screen employees, clients and visitors for flu-like symptoms and travel outside of Canada?


Recently, public health officials have recommended the use of masks or face coverings in public settings.  Costco Canada now recommends that all Costco members and guests wear a mask or face covering that covers the mouth and nose, at all times while on Costco premises. Expect to see most retailers and businesses institute similar policies relying on the advice of public health experts.

Public Health officials have also recommended that in certain situations such as transit where you cannot be assured that you’ll be able to guarantee that 2 metre or 6 foot distance, it is strongly recommended to use a facial covering, or mask to prevent transmission of COVID-19 to others and to respect their space.

A cautionary note –  wearing a mask does not offer complete protection and is not a substitute for physical distancing.

These continue to be unprecedented times characterized by an ever-evolving landscape.  Communicating with employees and clients, taking extra measures, and working to keep the workplace clean and sanitized will help reduce anxiety and protect employees and clients.  Every day will be a new normal.

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