How To Create A Reopening Plan For Your Business

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Do you need to know how to create a reopening plan for your business? If you own or manage a business shut down during the Coronavirus pandemic, preparing to reopen safely for all your employees is a concerning task.

Across the country, states are easing restrictions, even as new cases of COVID-19 infection still occur daily. Taking necessary precautions to protect your workers will mitigate company and employee risk as people return and continue to work.

Use this plan to help guide your decisions, reduce your stress, increase cooperation, and maximize effectiveness in your workplace. Here are some guidelines to help you get started.

Build Trust

Employees need to know their health and safety is your top priority. When you create a reopening plan, have your organization’s owner, CEO, or main authority figure write a short, powerful statement expressing that your company puts its employees’ well-being first. Put this near the start of your document.

Clearly communicate how your plan protects your people. Let them see your concern for their mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Then, take practical steps to support your employees in these areas.

Who is in Charge?

Clearly state who leads this initiative, what could potentially affect the policies in your plan, and which sources you referenced when creating your policies and recommendations. By staying transparent about your sources, you increase credibility and remain accountable for your decisions.

In many larger companies, the Human Resources department can lead such initiatives. Otherwise, a senior member of the management team suits the bill.

Develop a Reopening Plan

Your COVID-19 Reopening Plan must include several key topics and describe how your business will implement them. At a minimum it should include:

  1. Infection prevention measures
  2. How to quickly identify and isolate sick people
  3. Strategy for social distancing according to government recommendations
  4. Cleaning, disinfecting, decontamination, and ventilation strategy
  5. Communications and training necessary for managers and workers to implement the plan
  6. Management and supervision necessary to ensure effectiveness

Clarify Your Goal

What are you trying to accomplish when you create a reopening plan? Clearly state your goal(s) at the beginning of your reopening plan document. Here are a few goals you may consider:

  •  Return to normalcy or better communication among workers
  • Maintain a healthy work environment
  • Reduce transmission among employees
  • Minimize mental/emotional stress on employees
  • Maintain healthy business operations

What About Shared Resources?

Identify and address any potential concerns about sharing resources with other businesses. If your company shares a building, vehicles, equipment, or other resources with other companies, state how you plan to work together to maximize health and safety while sharing resources. Make sure you and people who share your resources agree on policies to protect workers when you create a reopening plan.

Outline The Plan

Before Employees Return

Create a reopening plan before employees return.
Define steps your company will take to prepare the workplace before employees arrive.

  • Will you schedule a cleaning service to disinfect your office?
  • Do you need more handwashing stations or plexiglass shields?
  • Will employees need temperature checks or doctor’s notes after being sick?
  • Also include steps to disinfect the space after employees go home so everyone can return to a clean workplace the next day.

Phases of Reopening

Phases of reopening allow your workers to return in a graduated, controlled series of steps. Each phase should include three key pieces of information:

  • Who is returning
  • Whether return is mandatory or optional
  • What type of scheduling you will use

You may add other considerations such as business travel.

Who Will Return First?

In your organization, all employees may not need to return to work at the same time. Also, to follow social distancing guidelines, they may not be allowed. Outline phases of reopening to state when different groups will return. You can structure this in different ways. For example, break it down by department, physical location according to a floor plan, or employee preference. Some companies have broken their employees into teams, with team one entering the location on week one, team two for week two, and so one. This reduces exposure and cuts down on expenses.

What if some employees prefer to return immediately, and others wish to work from home a few extra weeks? Take your business needs and employee needs into consideration as you decide which phases of reopening will work best for your company.

Is It Mandatory?

At each phase, indicate whether employee return is optional, encouraged, or mandatory. As you decide whether to require attendance or not, weigh the pros and cons of making someone return before he or she is ready. Compare employees’ performance in the workplace versus telecommuting and look for significant differences.

Which Type of Scheduling Will You Use?

Choose a schedule that will keep group sizes small according to recommended safety guidelines. Remember, social distancing protects workers from exposure, so stagger shifts or plan rotating schedules to cut down on worker interaction. Consider adding an early or late shift.

What About Travel?

If your employees sometimes travel for work, build travel guidelines into your phases of reopening. For example, in Phases 1 and 2 you may want to suspend all business travel. Then, you could resume some travel in Phase 3, but only to select destinations. Base all travel plans on recommendations from the city and state.

Daily Health Checks

Will you require daily health checks when employees arrive at work? When you create a reopening plan, outline the details of any screening procedures you will use. Screening may include a temperature scan, questionnaire, daily sign-in sheet, etc. Work with your HR manager to develop this plan so you do not violate any employee rights with the information you collect. Employers should do the following:


Conduct screening for visitors and employees. Look for:

  • Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Sore Throat
  • Muscle Aches

If Yes, then deny entry to the building. Require an evaluation by a health professional before the employee may to work.

Sick Employees

Workers who appear to have symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from others and sent home as soon as possible.

Sick employees should stay home until all of these occur:

  • At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (defined as fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications) and respiratory symptoms improve (no more cough or shortness of breath)
  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared
  • Employee has been tested and receives a health professional’s consent to safely return to work.

Return to Work Authorization

Require return to work authorization for any employee who has tested positive for COVID-19. Sometimes the employee cannot get written authorization from a healthcare provider due to unavailability. If this happens, you may follow CDC guidelines to verify the employee has been quarantined past the incubation period and is symptom-free. Decide if you will require negative COVID-19 tests.


Isolation Area

Create an isolation area where people can sit if they suddenly feel ill at work and cannot go home right away. Give it an inviting name, such as the Wellness Room, and outfit it with seating you can sanitize after use. In addition, provide tissues, waste baskets, and hand sanitizer. Encourage employees to use this room if they do not feel well and create special cleaning procedures for this room.

Reporting Illness

When you create a reopening plan, make detailed policies about what employees should do if they get sick. Require employees to notify the company if they (or anyone in their household) experience any symptoms or test positive for COVID-19. Then, do not allow them to return to work until cleared by a healthcare professional. Post clear guidelines about how to report illness.

Post Information

Create informative posters to hang in common areas at work. Posters should contain information such as:

  • Please take your temperature every day before coming to work.
  • Stay home if you do not feel well.
  • Stay home if your temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
  • If you suddenly feel ill at work, go to the Wellness Room (isolation area) until you may safely go home.
  • You may use discretionary days or state/federal sick leave laws if you have a COVID-related illness.
  • Contact Human Resources for more information.

Everyone in your organization needs to know what to do, so make it very clear. Also, post all federal and state laws pertaining to the FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act).

Social Distancing

Decide which phases in your plan will include social distancing when you create a reopening plan. Then, create specific strategies for each phase to maintain social distancing in the workplace. For instance, install plexiglass shields between workstations on an assembly line, space desks further apart, or move tables further apart in the break room. Consider creating small teams per department that will report for work on certain days. The teams could rotate schedules to have different teams in the space at different times.

Employers should do the following to promote social distancing:

  • Limit facility access. Only allow essential workers.
  • Provide visual cues (e.g., floor markings, signs) to remind workers to maintain social distancing.
  • Encourage single-file movement with a 6-foot distance between each worker through the facility, where possible.
  • Designate workers to oversee and facilitate distancing on production or assembly line floors.
  • For some monitoring activities, consider using camera systems to remotely view facilities instead of physically visiting the location.
  • Stagger break times or provide temporary break areas and restrooms to avoid groups of workers during breaks. Workers should always maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others, including on breaks.
  • Stagger workers’ arrival and departure times to avoid groups in parking areas, locker rooms, and near time clocks.
  • Provide visual cues (e.g., floor markings, signs) as a reminder to maintain social distancing.
  • Adjust line speed to keep workers six feet apart.
  • Stagger schedules to avoid groups at time clocks, change rooms, entrances etc.
  • Revise break times.
  • Designate additional areas for breaks and meals.
  • Provide barriers or shields to protect workers if social distancing is not possible.

Carpooling and Ride Sharing

Employers should do the following:

  • Encourage workers to avoid carpooling to and from work, if possible.
  • Request that employees use hand hygiene before entering the vehicle and when arriving at the destination.
  • Suggest that employees in a shared van or car space wear cloth masks.


Decide how you will conduct internal meetings safely. Include these guidelines in your plan.

  • Eliminate all non-essential meetings and consider using videoconferencing for essential meetings.
  • If you must hold face-to-face meetings, break them into smaller groups instead of holding one large meeting.
  • Omit food and beverages from any face-to-face meetings.
  • Require employees to wear face masks if social distancing is not possible.

Cleaning and Disinfection

To reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, you must carefully plan how to clean and disinfect shared spaces. Only certain cleaning products can kill the virus that causes COVID-19. Because there are so many products available, the EPA compiled a list of disinfectant products effective against COVID-19, including ready-to-use sprays, concentrates, and wipes. Each product has been proven to kill viruses even more resistant than the one which causes COVID-19. You can find the list here.

Employers should do the following:

  • Do normal, routine cleaning with soap and water to decrease how much of the virus remains on surfaces and objects. This reduces the risk of exposure.
  • Disinfect surfaces using EPA-approved disinfectants with an external icon against COVID-19. It is important to frequently disinfect surfaces and objects touched by multiple people to help reduce risk of exposure.
  • When EPA-approved disinfectants are not available, use alternative disinfectants. For example, use 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water, or 70% alcohol solutions. Do not mix bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products together. This can cause fumes that may be very dangerous to inhale. Bleach solutions effectively disinfect for up to 24 hours.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch areas daily – handrails, tools, guards, doorknobs, computers, etc.
  • Clean break areas frequently since many people share the same surfaces.
  • Consider installing portable high-efficiency air cleaners.
  • Upgrade the building’s air filters to the highest efficiency possible.
  • Explore other modifications to increase the quantity of outside air and ventilation in work and break areas.


Post hygiene rules in common areas such as restrooms and break rooms. Outline any expectations about hand washing procedures, touching one’s face, disinfecting shared surfaces and equipment after use, sneezing or coughing, and tissue disposal. Provide resources for more information.

Employers should do the following:

  • Allow handwashing, as necessary.
  • Require handwashing before and after using the restroom.
  • Make soap and water available.
  • Provide work areas with wipes and sanitizer.
  • Require handwashing before and after eating and drinking.
  • Install portable handwashing stations in areas without handwashing sinks.
  • Teach cough and sneeze etiquette.


When you create a reopening plan, select appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) based on the results of an employer’s hazard assessment and workers’ specific job duties.

Employers should do the following:

  • Encourage employees to wear cloth face coverings in the workplace, if appropriate.
  • Wear cotton face masks, face coverings or disposable masks.
  • Pay for PPE. (Face coverings are not PPE according to the CDC).
  • Provide training on how to use PPE correctly.
  • Choose face coverings that allow easy breathing in hot weather.
  • Train workers in recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat stress.
  • If employees experience breathing difficulty with required PPE, consider issuing powered air purifier respirators instead.
  • Have employees change gloves if they become torn or visibly contaminated with blood or body fluids.
  • When eye protection is needed, use goggles or face shields. Personal eyeglasses are not considered adequate eye protection.

If workers need respirators, they must use them in the context of a comprehensive respiratory protection program. OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134) requires medical exams, fit testing, and training.

Surgical masks are not respirators and do not provide the same level of protection to workers as properly fitted respirators.

Create a Personal Protective Equipment Hazard Analysis as required by 1910.132(d) for personal protective equipment at work. Decide if you will require employees to wear face masks or any other kind of PPE, then provide details about when, where, and what type. While some companies require face masks throughout the day, others only require them to be worn in common areas, or while employees are mobile.

Will you provide face masks/PPE, or can employees wear their own? Clarify any details about how to wear masks correctly.


In your reopening plan, indicate how you will communicate key information to your workers.

Establish Channels

Employers should do the following:

  • Create a channel for constant communication, such as a dedicated phone line, e-mail address, or web page where employees can ask questions.
  • Create and implement a process for employees to report symptoms.
  • Plan a way to frequently remind workers not to come to work if they have symptoms.
  • Post instruction and reminders on symptoms, handwashing, hygiene, and reporting illness.

Education and Training

Employers should train workers on the following:

  • How to implement the various infection prevention and control methods
  • Signs and symptoms of COVID-19
  • How COVID-19 spreads, risks for workplace exposures, and how workers can protect themselves
  • Proper handwashing practices and use of hand sanitizer stations
  • Cough and sneeze etiquette
  • Routine infection control precautions, such as putting on or taking off masks or cloth face coverings and social distancing measures

Common Area Rules, Dining, Coffee Stations

Create a set of common area rules and post signs in all common areas. Include information such as whether face masks are required, whether doors should remain open or shut, and how many people may use the area at the same time.

Outline any cleaning procedures such as wiping down surfaces after use. Indicate spacing for any lines which may form at the coffee station or anywhere people tend to cluster. Create specific rules for any areas where people typically eat or drink.

Most companies are shutting down break rooms, coffee stations, and drinking fountains. Bring in bottled water to reduce cross contamination.

Working From Home

Create a work-from-home policy so employees know what your company expects. You must decide whether requiring employees to enter the workplace rather than working from home matters, and under what circumstances. Outline details about work-from-home requests, equipment, job duties and responsibilities, work ethic, tools and technology, etc.

Outside Personnel & Deliveries

Does your workplace receive deliveries or frequently employ outside personnel? Decide how to limit exposure to outside personnel, such as designating a specific delivery area or requiring all employees to bring a sack lunch instead of ordering lunch or coffee. If outside personnel must enter the workplace, make sure they follow the same screening procedures you use for employees.

Call To Action

Conclude your reopening plan with a strong call to action. This can be a personal message from the owner, CEO, or any influential leader within the company. Because employees will each view the new rules differently, you must create a unifying sense of purpose. By remaining positive and highlighting the importance of following the plan, you will maximize the positive impact of the reopening plan in your workplace.


As you research best practices for your company’s reopening plan, check out these great resources:

About the Author...

John Newquist

John has over 30 years of experience as a safety trainer. Since 1987 John has trained over 50,000 people including OSHA compliance officers and Fortune 500 Clients. His areas of expertise include Incident Investigation, Confined Space, Excavation Safety, Cranes Signaling, Rigging Safety, Fall Protection, Scaffold Competent Person, Silica Competent Person, CHST Prep, Lockout, Machine Guarding, OSHA Recordkeeping, and Safety Management. Services: Mock OSHA Inspections, Site Safety Audits, Expert Witness

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