Return-to-Office Workgroup provides recommendations to governor
April 29, 2021
The State’s Return-to-Office Workgroup has provided Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with their recommendations for how employers can begin to plan for a safe, phased reopening of offices. The group consisting of business, labor and public health experts, was established on March 15, and has acted quickly to develop concise recommendations regarding Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) polices and additional guidance and best practices to help employers plan for a return to in-person office work.
“Workers and their safety are our top priority,” said Michigan COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan. “We have taken a proactive approach to listen and collect feedback from a wide array of stakeholders, as we try to address challenges and concerns of employers who are looking to align their reopen plans with health guidance and safety rules.”
In addition to encouraging employers to be transparent and communicate frequently with employees on phased return-to-office plans, the workgroup’s key recommendations also include:
- Provide additional examples to help to employers interpret and implement MIOSHA guidance.
- Consider addressing additional questions including:
- Mentoring and training of employees.
- Task-based work functions (e.g., some work in-person, some remote).
- Clarify employer’s ability to update the policy as needed and recognize changing conditions.
- Consider individual feasibility based on an employee’s ability to successfully complete their functions remotely (e.g., classification may be remote, but individually employee either struggles or does not have the tools/ability to function remotely).
- Consider collaboration and team functions.
- Consider employee well-being/mental health.
- Consider communicating that more in-person work is permitted.
- Provide ongoing updates to the Nov. 6 guidance as necessary and regularly to reflect current trends of vaccination and infection.
Employers – Reducing Office Density:
- Focus on task-based collaboration and specific needs for in-person work while allowing other tasks and teamwork to be completed remotely when feasible.
- Consider utilizing hybrid work strategies to promote social distancing.
Employers – Addressing Operational Obstacles:
- Daily Health Screenings – stagger entry times to avoid congregation at screening checkpoints, consider using screening apps to provide prior to entry.
- Entry/exit through common entrances and elevators – stagger start and end times as practical to avoid congregation.
Employers – Quarantine, Isolation and Testing Guidelines:
- Ensure policy clearly articulates the ability of employees to quarantine/isolate/test without risk of job loss.
- Promote the use of sick leave tax credits available for employers with 500 or fewer employees to provide paid leave.
Employers – Caregiving Resources for Employees:
- Establish a return policy that provides employees with caregiving obligations to continue remote work regardless of the cohort group returning, including caregiving of immuno-compromised persons.
- Promote the use of family leave tax credits available for employers with 500 or fewer employees to provide paid leave.
Employers – Vaccines:
- Provide up-to-date information to employees on the vaccines.
- Provide links to vaccination sites/sign-up information.
- Consider partnering where possible with local public health to offer on-site vaccination.
- Add COVID-19 vaccination to existing wellness programs and benchmarks.
These recommendations come at a time when workplace safety remains a concern. As reported to MDHHS by local public health departments, office workplaces had 385 COVID-19 outbreaks from September 3, 2020 through April 22, 2021, making office settings the fifth highest for outbreaks among the 22 settings being reported. This data demonstrates the need for a strong partnership between diverse stakeholders and subject matter experts who can help develop a phased return-to-office work strategy that ensures the protection of Michiganders.
“As a small business owner, I appreciate the commitment, dedication and strategic planning that the Whitmer Administration has shown,” said Tameka Ramsey, owner, T. Ramsey & Associates. “The LEO team has done an amazing job ensuring that all businesses are being heard and represented in creating policies on returning back to the office during this time. This group of experts has worked collectively to make sure that employees and customers are safe as we slowly reopen.”
“I’m impressed by how well everyone worked together,” Dr. Kate Birdsall, president, MSU Union of Nontenure-Track Faculty, AFT said. “Each member of the team brought valuable insight to our weekly meetings, where we collaborated to ensure the continued health and safety of Michiganders as the state prepares to reopen more fully.”
The workgroup consulted a variety of data including MDHHS public health data, MIOSHA information, local economic impact data, and best practice information provided by members of the workgroup.”
In addition to the workgroup’s efforts on return-to-office work, LEO has recently held several feedback sessions with legislative leaders, small businesses and representatives from many business sectors including financial services, manufacturing, legal and insurance services.
The advisory group complements the collaborative work that MIOSHA and other state agencies are currently performing with businesses in the field. This work includes the MIOSHA Ambassador Program where over 3,700 businesses have been provided free education and one-on-one guidance to understand regulations on workplace safety.
To learn more about the efforts to support a safe reopening in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety.
Media Contact: Jason Moon, 517-282-0041