As New York City Heads Back to Work, Private Employers Will Follow
By Amiad Solomon, CEO Of Hip
With vaccinations on the rise, a path out of the pandemic is becoming clear. New York City is blazing the trail, setting an example for businesses in the area that their teams can start returning to work. On May 3rd, New York City municipal offices will ask their employees to, for the first time since the March 2020 lockdowns, return to the office. The City’s announcement is leading the way for many private companies to encourage their employees to return to the workplace. It is also leaving many human resources executives wondering what precautions they should take to ensure safety during this time? And how will employees commute safely to work in a post-pandemic environment?
To address these needs, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) put out a guide with recommendations for companies to comply with in order to meet safety regulations for their employees. Their guidelines focus “on the need for employers to develop and implement strategies for basic hygiene (e.g., hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfection), social distancing, identification and isolation of sick employees, workplace controls and flexibilities, and employee training.” Under the guidelines OSHA encourages companies to make telework available when possible and limit the number of people in the office, recommending a slightly different workplace than existed pre-COVID-19.
For HR executives it is straightforward to set and enforce health guidelines or policies that mitigate the spread of the virus in the office, but how can they minimize employees’ risk to and from the workplace? Employees often travel to work on public transportation with no social distancing or possibility of contact tracing since it is crowded with complete strangers, thereby posing some health risk while COVID remains a concern.
Underscoring this: the NYC government, in its reopening guidelines, is encouraging managers to allow flexible arrival and departure times to help employees avoid peak crowds on public transportation. A more reliable solution that can help companies reduce commute risk, while maintaining more standard employee schedules, is a dedicated commuter transportation program.
Technology companies today understand that the return for employees is about more than just safety in the workplace. It begins the moment workers step outside their home office, requiring care and precautions on the commute as well as in the office. Companies need a flexible and transparent commuter transportation platform for the company and their employees. Today, transportation platforms cater to commuters accustomed to an Uber-like experience, one where employees can purchase tickets through an app, track the commuter vehicle, and map the route to the office. Companies are using these platforms to create “company transportation” that is limited to their employees. The same employees travel to work together each day, social distancing is incorporated in the seating arrangements, healthcare screenings are included per company request, and contact tracing is automated.
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Flexibility of these commuter platforms is also important since many companies are creating flexible work from home options, where employees can work from home part of the week and come to the office on certain days. The platform needs to move with a fluid company schedule to accommodate this “new normal”.
Transportation is a crucial component of a roll out plan for employees returning to work. This plan should start when the employee leaves the house, covering commuter transportation to implementing measures in the actual workplace to ensure safety and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
A safe “return to work” roll out will ensure that companies can keep their offices open while protecting their greatest asset – their employees.