The board directors of for-profit companies are now faced with a critical decision regarding when to return to work post-COVID. This decision, which was once considered relatively straightforward, has become much more complicated in light of the pandemic.
Directors must weigh many factors in making this determination, including the safety of employees and customers, the financial stability of the company, and government directives. In this blog post, we will outline eight factors for boards to consider when making their return-to-work decisions.
A company’s financial health is a primary consideration for any decision the board makes. The current economic downturn will cause financial struggles for many companies, so directors must be aware of how their return-to-work decisions may impact a company’s bottom line. For instance, some states are allowing employees who have tested positive for COVID to return to work as long as they are asymptomatic.
Will this increase a company’s insurance costs? If so, will it make enough of an impact on the bottom line to warrant a delay in the return date or the prohibition of people who have tested positive to return to the workplace? There is no right answer; each board will have to make its own decisions based on their company’s financial health and available resources.
Another important consideration is how a return-to-work date may impact customers’ health, particularly in settings where employees directly interact with customers (e.g., retail stores or restaurants). If a large number of customers fall ill after visiting a store, for instance, this could have a significant impact on the company’s bottom line.
In addition, it’s worth considering how much contact employees will have with customers. For example, call center workers may not need to return to work as soon as those who work in stores. Boards must strike a balance between the potential financial harm from too many customers getting sick and the potential harm to employees if they are not allowed back to work.
Government guidelines related to COVID are also important considerations for board directors. Some states have now instituted mandatory quarantines for those who have recently returned from high-risk countries.
If a director has been in such a country, he or she may not be able to return to work until the quarantine period has ended. Boards should also consider how a director’s return date could impact their travel plans if they need to go out of town for business reasons.
Directors must also consider the health of their families when determining whether it is safe to return to work. If a director has children, they may need to make arrangements for childcare while they are at the office or working remotely.
Directors should also consider how the health of their families could impact their jobs if traveling is a necessary as part of their duties (e.g., flying out of town on business trips or attending conferences).
Current Health Status
Directors should consider their current health status (as well as other factors that could impact it) before making a decision about whether to return to work. For instance, does he or she have any preexisting conditions?
Does anyone else in the household have COVID-19 symptoms?
Directors should also be honest with themselves about how they are feeling. If they do not feel well, it may be best to delay returning to work until they are feeling better.
Board directors must also familiarize themselves with the company’s policies related to COVID and illness before deciding whether or not it is safe to return to work.
Some companies may have policies that prohibit employees who are sick or exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms from returning until the quarantine period ends; others may allow those individuals back into the office as long as they wear masks (and follow other safety measures).
Directors should also consider how returning to work could impact the health of other employees. For example, if a director is returning from an area with high levels of COVID-19 cases or has been exposed in some way (e.g., traveling on public transportation), he or she may not be able to return until his/her quarantine period ends.
Directors should also consider the age and health of other employees in the workplace when determining whether to return or not. Younger workers may face less risk from COVID-19 than older ones, so a director who fits into this category may be able to return sooner rather than later if he has been exposed but shows no symptoms.
Travel restrictions can also impact a director feeling safe to return to work. For example, if there are no flights available from certain areas because of COVID-19 cases in that area (such as Italy), directors may need alternative transportation options like trains or buses.
Directors should also consider whether they have been exposed to anyone with symptoms during their trip and quarantine themselves accordingly before returning home.
Company morale is another factor that may impact a director’s return-to-work decision. If employees are unhappy because of COVID-19, they may not be as productive or cooperative with one another.
The director should consider this before returning to the office so that employee morale doesn’t suffer any further than it already has during these difficult times.
Board directors who are considering returning to work post-pandemic should carefully weigh all of the abovementioned factors before making a decision.
There is no singular answer that fits everyone, so directors must individualize their assessments based on their own unique situations.
If they are unsure about what to do, they can always consult with their companies’ human resources departments, health officials, or trusted family members or friends.