Planning a Safe Return to the Office in 6 Steps
We’re going on twelve months into a global pandemic, and for some of us, the desire to return to the office is getting stronger every day. For months we’ve adapted our working habits to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe & healthy, but while we’ve loved the extra time with family and added flexibility that working from home allows, we miss the face time with our colleagues. We miss the corridor conversations, the team lunches, and the Friday afternoon ping pong tournaments. We miss being together.
It’s time to plan a safe return to the office. Here’s how:
Whether you’re a CEO, a manager, or an intern, the key to mapping out a successful office return is communication. Not talking to each other throughout the process keeps teams from being on the same page and can cause unnecessary contention between management and their people.
Executives, find out exactly how your people are feeling. Talk to your managers and team leaders about how people are liking working from home as well as their productivity levels, KPI’s, and morale. Take note of how your company culture has endured the change from working together in one place to working together apart. Effectively communicating will give you a better grasp on what work should continue to be done from home and what would benefit from face to face connection.
Managers, understand your team’s wants and needs moving forward. Take a poll to find out who wants to come into work and who would prefer to continue working remote. With safety being the number one priority, you don’t want to force anyone into a situation they aren’t comfortable with.
Regardless of position, every employee should be asking questions to ensure that a safe plan is being put in action. By asking about a return timeline, capacity limits, sanitization measures and other safety precautions, you are telling your leaders what you as employees need to return happily and safely.
Take It Slow
One thing we have all come to understand throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic is that being productive working from home is not only possible, but sustainable. So there should be no rush to get employees back in the office. Instead, take it a step at a time.
Start by giving employees the option to return a couple days a week if they want to. Keep it voluntary, letting employees know there is no pressure on anyone to return and that telecommuting is still an option.
Once you’ve proven you can get employees back working in the office safely, you can take baby steps to get more and more of your employees back where necessary.
Follow The Rules
Between the White House, the CDC, and local & state governments, rules and regulations regarding group sizes, business openings, and safety mandates are changing almost daily. Before letting anyone back into the office, get familiar with all regulations pertinent to your business.
Whether or not your city or state is operating under a mask mandate, make sure to set an example by always wearing your mask when around other people, and encouraging employees to do the same.
Make sure that by reopening you aren’t putting yourself or your business at risk of fines, business license suspensions, or lawsuits.
Keep It Clean
Chances are your office won’t be hosting any elective surgeries any time soon, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to ditch the hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes. Sanitization stations should be set up at every entrance, as well as in conference rooms, common areas, and other strategic locations throughout the office.
Remind your employees often about the importance of keeping hands washed and workspaces clean, for the safety of your business, but more importantly, for the safety of your people and their families.
Sad as it is to say out loud, your office will never be the same as it was pre-COVID. Open concept work spaces and common areas boasting shared snacks and office activities will need to be reworked to meet current needs.
New software tools, like Tactic, make it easy to schedule office time, reserve conference rooms, and track contact between employees in the case of a positive Coronavirus case. Tactic is the ideal tool for maintaining appropriate office capacity and making the best use of your office space.
Many of us are excited to get back to work. Others, not so much. Make no mistake, working from home is not something that will go away any time soon (or ever for that matter). So when planning a return to the office, stay flexible. Let employees that don’t feel comfortable coming back continue to telecommute.
The future of the workplace is a well-balanced diet of safe face-to-face interaction, remote work, and hoping for the best while staying prepared for an ever changing future.
We’re six months into a global pandemic, and for some of us, the desire to return to the office is stronger every day. Before that can happen though, a plan needs to be put in place that ensures compliance, flexibility, and most importantly, safety.