There are several checklist items to complete before safely reopening your business. Not sure where to start? Read more to find out.

| 2 years ago

10 Important Takeaways from Atrium Health's Return-to-Work Town Hall Meetings

There are several checklist items to complete before safely reopening your business. Not sure where to start? Read more to find out.

As an employer, returning to work post-pandemic can feel a bit intimidating. At Atrium Health, we’re here to help. That’s why we pulled together 10 takeaways from Atrium Health’s Return-to-Work Town Hall meetings.

Hosted by Senior Vice President of Population Health, Ruth Krystopolski, our town hall meetings feature Atrium Health experts giving real advice on mental health, human resources and safely reopening your business post-pandemic.

Key takeaways:

From Cathy D. Best, MODL, Senior HR Strategic Business Partner, tips on reopening and COVID-safe practices:

1. Don’t rush a “grand reopening.”

No matter the size of your organization, there are several administrative tasks to consider before reopening.

For starters, you should determine essential roles and personnel for in-office tasks and evaluate the safety of the physical workspace. Revisit policies, practices and FAQs as many may be obsolete or require modification. Workplace policies and practices will require short-, mid- and long-term planning as the pandemic evolves and new legislation is passed.

Be sure to develop clear group and individual employee communication to better understand workplace challenges, especially with employees deemed “high-risk” or “non-essential” who are working from home. Seek to understand and empathize with employees facing barriers and challenges.

2. Enforce COVID-Safe behaviors.

For safety reasons, routinely clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces and objects around the office. In addition, ensure employees are: 

  • Practicing proper hand hygiene by washing their hands often with soap and water
  • Wearing a cloth mask when not at home or when social distancing is not possible
  • Refraining from physical contact (e.g., shaking hands or hugging) 
  • Considering virtual rather than in-person meetings
  • Eliminating non-essential business travel  
  • Not coming into work when feeling sick
  • Notifying you of potential exposures or infection 
  • Maintaining at least a six-foot social distance from others
  • Avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands

Be sure to monitor compliance, and investigate, document and correct all violations of COVID-Safe behavior.

For more tips on safely managing your workplace at this time, visit our employer resource library. From COVID-Safe tips to virtual guidance and presentations, this tool has served many in preparing for a safe reopening.

3. Respect spatial guidelines for the workplace.

Consider options such as alternate work schedules to limit the number of people in-office each day. You should also encourage employees to social distance when visiting restroom facilities and/or other high traffic areas. To help, you can use tools such as floor markers, seat spacers and counter safety shields for common areas such as break rooms.

4. Protect company privacy.

Whether you’re reopening next month, next year or switching to remote work full-time, it’s important to continue protecting your company’s private information. As employees travel back and forth between the workplace and home, it is wise to remind them to secure all confidential information and lock their computers when they’re away.

You should also be vigilant in keeping confidential paperwork secure when it is not in use.

From Dr. Karla Lever, PhD, LCMHCS, CEAP, Director of Employee Assistance Programs, tips on leading your employees:

5. Lead your team through adversity and uncertainty.

In times of crisis, it’s the responsibility of the leadership team to calm the storm and provide hope and motivation for employees. Here are a few ways you can provide comfort and optimism to your team in the trying months ahead: 

  • Show compassion so that employees feel confident their organization cares.
  • Information decreases anxiety.
  • Practice goal-setting with employees.
  • Experiment with different ways to communicate and interact with your team.
  • Promote self-care and positivity.
  • Ask your employees for input; involve them in the decision-making process.

6. Keep tabs on employee mental health.

In a recent survey, 7 in 10 employees indicated that this pandemic has been the most stressful time of their entire professional career. As an employer, this makes paying attention to signs of troubled or disengaged employees more important than ever.

Following are a few signals to look out for: 

  • An employee with a previously satisfactory performance record beginning to lag behind
  • Employees displaying changed/poor patterns of communication, such as:
  • Missed meetings
  • Slow or no reply to emails and/or messages
  • Missed deadlines
  • Lack of participation in group chats
  • Body language

If you notice any of these actions becoming a pattern for one of your employees, reach out and check in with them. It’s important for all team members to know how and when to seek mental healthcare.

If you or one of your employees would like to speak with a licensed professional, please contact our free 24/7 Behavioral Health Help Line at 704-444-2400.

From Ruth Krystopolski, Senior Vice President of Population Health, and Dr. Brian Kersten, MD, Senior Medical Director of Emerging Care, the importance of continuing care:

7. Encourage your team to not delay care.

At this time, it’s important for you and your team to continue seeking care for all coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and non-COVID health concerns. Apart from causing serious implications down the road, delaying care can result in employees being out of work for long periods of time, thus increasing healthcare costs and reducing workplace productivity.

Since June, we’ve been enhancing our primary care services to better suit your needs. Here’s how:

  • COVID-Safe measures have been implemented at all Atrium Health locations. Measures include, but are not limited to, employee and patient screening, extensive cleaning protocols and sufficient PPE for all patients and staff.
  • Virtual visits are now a viable option. Most chronic conditions can be managed via telephone or video appointment.
  • Appointments for primary care are available within 24 hours of request.

From Lucy Dean, RD, LDN, Assistant Vice President, HR, Teammate Experience, tips on communications:

8. Communicate through change.

At Atrium Health, our biggest tip for team communication in times of uncertainty is leading with your mission. If you feel lost in details or are questioning different sources of truth, turn back to your team mission, and let this guide you.

It’s also important to know how to pivot. With new virus information coming out each day, the workplace landscape and CDC guidelines can change in a flash. We are all continuously learning.

Here are a few tips for workplace communication at this time:

  • Determine who holds the source of truth within your organization.
  • Align all communications teams including HR and business operations.
  • Keep an eye on business goals. It’s important for all communicators to understand current and future company plans for success.
  • Establish an official communication protocol and agree upon governance.
  • Revisit existing communication channels and make changes if necessary.
  • Track and measure communication effectiveness. Adjust if needed.
  • Incorporate change management.

From Nicolette Davis, MPAS, PA-C, Assistant Specialty Medical Director of Occupational Medicine, tips on managing worksite exposure:

9. Safeguard against worksite exposure.

Identify activities that could put employees at risk of COVID-19 exposure. High-risk activities may include, but are not limited to, working in groups, commuting to and from the office with coworkers and/or working in close proximity with one another (especially without the use of masks).

Be sure to pinpoint high-risk employees and/or others deemed not essential for in-office work. Employees with a family member or close contact under evaluation for COVID-19 symptoms should privately share this information, stay home and self-isolate until the patient’s status is known.

Evaluate the layout of the physical workplace and determine which furniture is necessary for common areas. Encourage in-office employees to routinely wipe down their workstations and refrain from socializing in places with limited space (bathrooms, break rooms, etc.). They should also bring their own utensils/plates to work and return them home each day for cleaning.

Also from Ruth Krystopolski, Senior Vice President of Population Health, tips on ensuring your worksite is COVID-Safe:

10. Take advantage of Atrium Health’s COVID-Safe for Employers program.

 To guide you through these difficult times, we are providing specialized healthcare options for you and your team. Here are a few of our current offerings:

  • Symptom Checker Tool

Protect your team from COVID-19 by tracking the presence or absence of virus symptoms among your employees before they report to work.

  • Worksite Exposure Management

Receive expert guidance from Atrium Health professionals following a worksite exposure. Our team will assess the level of exposure your employees sustained and monitor high-risk/exposed employees until they can safely return to work.

  • On-Site Post-Exposure Testing

Provide COVID-19 diagnostic testing for asymptomatic employees after a worksite exposure.

  • On-Site Antibody Testing

Have high-quality antibody testing administered on-site by a team of highly trained professionals.

Read up on COVID-19 information, tips on preventing workplace virus spread/exposure and more.

For more guidance on safely reopening the office, email Or, to listen to all of our Return-to-Work Town Hall meetings, visit