At some point, the world will start 're-opening' and many people will be returning to work from their offices. Because of the COVID-19, our practices, and the way we do things has changed not just in our personal, but in our work lives too.
As the work environment gets back to what it was before, some previous procedures that were just an afterthought are now on the top of everyone's minds. If you do not want your employees' productivity levels to fail, you need to ensure that the office is safe for them to return.
There is a lot more you need to consider than just reassuring your employees that they can get back to the office. You need to address the way you handle day-to-day business as well as your business contingency and pandemic-contingency plans for the future. Not to mention that your shift back to the office could also affect the reputation of your company.
Managing the current and future expectations of your employees, as well as the reputation of your business will not be a walk in the park, but we have prepared some tips to help you get started.
Make the Workspace Safe
The health and the safety of your employees should be your primary concern.
First, you need to hire a cleaning service to clean your entire office thoroughly. Get them to clean and disinfect all individual and shared workspaces. By having the whole office deep cleaned, your employees will be at ease about working from there.
It would be best if you encouraged employees to keep the office clean, safe, and healthy. Lead by example, show your employees that you are practicing good hygiene. If your employees see that their leaders are following best practices, they are more likely to do the same.
As a leader, you need to make it easy for your employees to keep good hygiene practice. Order plenty of cleaning and disinfectant supplies before everyone gets back to the office. Keep them on hand so that employees can wipe door handles, counters, and any appliances after use.
Do not forget about placing hand sanitizers around the office so employees can disinfect their hands when they are not able to wash their hands.
Reorganize Your Office and Your Processes
It might be necessary to establish a few new rules regarding how your employees work from the office. For instance, the distance between workspaces should be bigger, making sure to follow the social distance while giving enough room to other employees. In case you do not have enough space in the office for this, consider creating a schedule where a portion of your team would work from home, while another group works in the office.
You could also implement temperature checks for visitors when at the office entrance until coronavirus tests become common.
For the time being, your social events should be with fewer people. The same should be applied to the number of employees attending meetings – keeping that number just to the most important ones. For everyone else, Zoom or Google Meet should do. The past few months have certainly proved that video conferencing apps are a great alternative to talking in real-life.
In the upcoming months, especially during the transition of employees back from their homes to the office, expect lots of questions.
You need to share as much information as possible with your employees. At the same time, you need to set expectations about the new reality of the office environment even before employees step back in the office.
It would help if you supported employees in this transition by answering all of their questions. Be there for them as much as possible until everyone settles down. The purpose of this should be to support the mental health and wellness of everyone involved.
It’s possible that some of your employees might feel uncomfortable coming back in, or that they simply cannot because their kids are not at school or kindergarden - make sure you have taken their situations into consideration before making a rule that everyone should come back.
Work on Employee Productivity
After working remotely for some time, most employees have likely fallen into a work from home routine. Now that they are back at the office, commuting and less flexible work hours might feel exhausting.
To ease the transition back to the office, provide them with a more flexible work schedule for the first few weeks and, if possible, let them work remotely a few days a week, gradually decreasing as they settle back.
While working from home, many companies were using software for monitoring work from home productivity. If you were one of them, you should continue with the practice now that more people are back in the office, because the software for monitoring work from home productivity is useful for in-office workers as well.
If you did not use the software before, make sure to give it a try, as it can monitor what your employees are doing at work which is beneficial both for them and the company.
Returning to work will take time. Being agile and flexible is the key to successfully re-opening the doors of your office. Many new challenges need to be solved for everything to get back to normal.
But with the right workspace safety and reorganization practices, new processes, working on productivity and communication, you can look forward to a new and more successful chapter in your company's life.