Series authors: Milena Maneva and Mark Hoffman

This is the fourth article in a five-part series on returning to the office. Previous article: Return-to-Office: Preparing your Environment


Communicating to all key stakeholders is important, despite the limited information we have on the virus and the potential cure timeline, it is important to keep everyone informed.


Mark and I have prepared a sample Return-to-Office Protocol that lays out the ‘rules of engagement’ so that employees understand the new conduct requirements following COVID-19 pandemic.


Return-to-Office Plan Considerations:

  • Return to the office readiness / category of return assessment – we recommend that you conduct a questionnaire to assess staff readiness to return to the office. This will help you to define the high-risk groups and teams for your phased return.
  • COVID-19 Health assessment questionnaire – conduct a health assessment for those groups returning to the office.
  • Conduct and HR policy considerations.
  • Legal and data protection considerations – it is important to consult your legal and data privacy and protection specialists to ensure that the data obtained is stored securely and accessed by limited number of people.
  • Mental health and well-being considerations.
  • Technical considerations – Staff’s return should have a minimum of 5 days’ notice.
  • Homeworking considerations.
  • CDC / WHO, local authority and governmental requirements.
  • Appropriate signage to help and direct people in and out of the building.


Return-to-Office Protocol Sample

Note: Your approach may differ from the sample below.


FROM: Executive Management

SUBJECT:  Return-to-Office Protocol – Standards for the Safety and Welfare of all staff relating to COVID-19

Dear Colleagues

Hope you and your families are well and continue to stay strong during these unprecedented times. To protect your health and well-being in response to the COVID-19 pandemic we are now in a position to begin with a gradual phased return. If you have completed the Health Assessment Questionnaire and have read the conduct and

As per our Return-to-Office Protocol, the suggested phased return is:

Our plan is to implement a rotating schedule, limiting the number of people in the office at any given time and maintaining physical distancing. Please follow the signage in and around the office and if you have any concerns please report them to your line manager and HR. All teams will be notified at least two-weeks in advance to prepare for a return to the office. The following outlines our Return-to-Office plan.

Team A: Critical teams returning from July 15th – unless advised otherwise.
Team B: Return begins from September 1st – unless advised otherwise.
Team C: Continue to work from home until further notice. It is important to note that employees who are considered high risk, have a family member who is ill or in a high-risk category or who feel uncomfortable coming to the office should continue to work from home.

Please note, that for your safety and that of your colleagues everyone must adhere to the following protocol:

  1. Health Assessment Questionnaire: Everyone must complete the health assessment questionnaire prior to returning to the office.
  2. Clearance to return: No one will be allowed to return to the office prior to receiving clearance from their line manager and HR.
    Note: If you are unwell for any reason after completing the above, stay home and report to your line manager and HR.  Employees who have had a fever or COVID-19 symptoms must self-isolate for 14 days before returning to the office.  Employees who have concerns about the work arrangement should speak to their line manager and / or HR.
  3. Screening: Employees are required to self-screen before returning. Upon arrival to the office, everyone will be screened – temperature checks, confirmation of successful health assessment pass.  If you have a fever above 100 f / 37.8° degrees, you may not enter the office.  Please return home.   If your pulse oximeter reading is below 95%, it means that your blood oxygen level is low, increasing the risk of complications if you contract COVID-19.  In this case, you may choose to work from home.
  4. Physical Distancing: Maintain 6 feet / 2 meters distance at all times. Where social distancing is not possible, staff must wear PPE. Physical distancing is applicable for all settings. Staff should avoid sitting face to face and at least one desk must separate employees while working in the office.
  5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Everyone must wear face cover / face masks in the office. Face masks / gloves will be given upon request. Masks must always be worn when in a common area.  Masks can be lowered if someone is alone, in their own office.  Masks are to be used for one full day and must be disposed of by you after you leave the office.  Do not leave used masks laying around the office.
  6. Hygiene: Wash your hands upon arrival and use the designated PPE waste bins. Everyone is asked to wash their hands frequently using soap and water or hand sanitizer.  Disinfectant wipes will be placed at the front door and kitchen area.  Please wipe down any surface area that you touch after each use.
  7. Workstations: Hot desks are suspended until further notice. Clear desk policy must be adhered to at all times. Sharing of desks and equipment is not allowed unless it is absolutely essential, then before use please use the disinfectant cleaning wipes, wear PPE and wash your hands.
  8. Equipment: Do not use another employee’s office phone, cell phone, laptop, mouse, or keyboard unless it is essential to your role – before you do, you must disinfect all surfaces.
  9. Gathering: Physical distancing must be maintained at all times.  Please do not gather in tight spaces such as hallways or behind the counter in the kitchen area.  Allow others to pass in the hallway before walking through.  Maintain physical distancing when visiting someone’s office.
  10. Meetings: Video conferencing is still the preferred choice for meetings.  In person meetings are allowed but no more than six people may gather in the available large meeting rooms, and physical distancing is required.  Anyone who is uncomfortable joining the meeting in person may join via video conference. Shaking hands and unnecessary physical contact is not permissible.
  11. Visitors: Only approved visitors are allowed in the office.  They must also pass screening, wear PPE and maintain physical distancing. Family or friends who drop by the office are not permitted beyond the lobby.
  12. Monitoring: The Leadership Team will monitor the situation and meet on a weekly basis to determine if the in-office work procedure needs to be modified.  It is possible, if cases increase (either in the office, locally, regionally, or state-wide) that restrictions could be reintroduced, and we will have to work from home again.  The overall health and safety of our employees is always paramount.
  13. Travel: Avoid public transportation by arranging alternative forms of transportation to and from the office where possible. Maintain physical distancing and wear PPE at all times. All international travel is still prohibited unless it is deemed critical and essential by executive management. Domestic travel must be approved in advance by executive management.
  14. Sickness / Exposure: Employees who are sick (for any reason) must stay home. Employees with COVID-19 related symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing) should contact their health-provider and seek to get tested. The following rules apply:
    • Anyone with symptoms must leave the office immediately, notify their line manager and HR, and should self-isolate at home, obtain testing and contact their local GP. If symptoms develop, employees are then required to self-isolate for the remainder of the 14-day period.
    • Areas where a COVID-19 positive person was known to work may be closed until a thorough cleaning can be done.
    • If an employee is symptomatic and either tests positive or cannot obtain a test, they will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
    • Employees with COVID-19 positive family members must self-monitor and work from home for 14 days.
  1. Department Heads / Supervision: All leaders are asked to report COVID-19 related absenteeism to Department heads are reminded that failure to adequately supervise an employee to ensure his or her compliance with safety and conduct requirements may also result in disciplinary action.

Please maintain the rules of conduct in the office and we thank you for your cooperation and work during these times.

Join Mark and Milena in the upcoming FREE Webinar on June 18, 2020:  COVID-19 Recovery Planning – Ask the Experts about Return-to-Office Q&A

Return-to-Office Five-part Series

  1. Return-to-Office: Considerations
  2. Return-to-Office: Protecting Your People
  3. Return-to-Office: Preparing the Environment
  4. Sample Return-to-Office Protocol
  5. Return-to-Office Q&A


About Milena Maneva, MSc | AMBCI

Milena holds a master’s degree in Risk Management with over ten years of risk management experience and is a certified as an Associate Member of the Business Continuity Institute (BCI) – she is currently working towards her MBCI application. Milena is active member and supporter of the Women in Resilience group in the UK. Raised in close proximity to a nuclear power plant, Milena became aware of the value of monthly drills as a child.  Those early experiences shaped her into the industry leader she is today.  She is a Business Continuity Management Lead for EMEA in a global financial services firm, looking after the business continuity and incident management for +40 offices, +6000 staff. She plays an influential role in the continuous improvement of her company’s global business resilience strategy and operations. You can contact Milena via

About Mark Hoffman – Author | Speaker | MBCI, CBCP

Mark is an independent senior crisis management and business continuity consultant.  He is the founder and president of a boutique consulting firm that has been serving customers in North America, Europe, and the Caribbean for twenty years. Mark has successfully designed, deployed, and managed BCM and Crisis Management Programs for organizations in the financial, transportation, utility, insurance, risk management and real estate industries. Mark specializes in Program Development / Governance and Crisis / Cyber Management Planning. He is quick to build relationships and achieve results working collaboratively with business leaders and executives. Mark is a frequent contributor to blogs, podcasts, and webinars on the topic of crisis management, cyber response, and business continuity.  Feel free to contact Mark to see how he can help your organization be well prepared: [email protected], on Twitter @mhoffman_cbcp or search for Mark on LinkedIn.