The long-awaited reopening plans of businesses have started. Unfortunately, it will not be as easy as unlocking the door. The workplace must be redesigned in the aftermath of the global pandemic, and leaders who are ready to transfer teams back into the office require a strategic reopening plan.
Developing a gradual and safe-return-to work strategy will necessitate a multi-faceted approach to planning and change. But, as with everything else in the COVID economy, this transformation cannot be rushed in the hopes of returning to business as usual. This is especially true for some who are parents or caregivers, given that younger children still lack access to immunizations and many parents are unsure about the next school year. This is just one of the many examples of people returning to work will encounter.
Some companies have already identified that the traditional office environment may be going through a radical change and the design team at Unispace, are developing a framework for workplace design called the ‘Propeller’.
The pandemic triggered a global transition to working remotely that cannot be reversed. Lessons learned by companies and individuals—for example, they need to adopt more intentional communication standards or improve remote work training—will continue to be learned, and will hopefully lead to better operations even among those who do not choose to maintain the current level of remote work capacity.
There are still so many factors to consider as we enter the unknown of a new work normal. Here are some tips to consider when developing an intentional return to work strategy plan:
1). Safe Work Environment
Ensuring the safety of your staff is critical especially after experiencing an epidemic. Staff returning to the office will already have a high sense of alert to protecting themselves even after being vaccinated. Ensure there is ample supply of masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, sanitizing stations, and barriers that are put in place as required. Employees have the right to be concerned if workplace safety measures are not being compliant or not following covid safety. Have a clear protocol for keeping all common areas and surfaces clean and increase cleaning and sanitizing frequency. It will be important for staff to be energized and ready for work than having to worry about safety concerns.
Accommodations for Staff
Adjustments for individuals with family concerns or medical reasons will need to be carefully considered and assessed.
Phased Office Re-entry
For some, being surrounded by a busy workplace on the onset will feel odd and perhaps terrifying after months of isolation or minimal social engagement. To limit risk, consider a phased reopening, with only a percentage of your staff in the office at any given moment. Alternating schedules or developing a hybrid model where some employees can continue to work remotely or be in the office given their role should be evaluated.
Stay connected safely
Encourage virtual meetings to continue to reduce face-to-face contact. Confirm that the technology infrastructure to facilitate remote work will remain in place for employees who continue to work out of the office. Maintain workplace rituals if it is safe to do so. Even if your quarterly team event takes place through Zoom, it’s critical to keep employees feeling connected and active no matter where they work.
2) Company Policy Updates
The new office normal has changed so significantly that a review or amendments to policies should be made:
- Updates to physical distancing based on COVID-19 guidelines should be implemented
- Changes to health and benefits policies that support mental health should also be considered
Taking a thorough look at all company policies is a good way to ensure that all matters have been addressed and reflect how an organization proceeds with the new working norm.
3) Regular Communications
As we all step into the new office environment, it will be paramount to have frequent communications with staff. Clear messaging to employees will aid in the alleviation of any anxiety or fears that one may be feeling. Remind staff that they can reach out to their manager or HR department if they have any questions or concerns.
Understanding the influence of the workplace on people is more crucial than ever during these unprecedented times. It is critical for companies to continue to provide tools, methods, and information to help people make informed decisions about returning to work in this changing environment.
The decisions we make now before returning to the office will affect our collective ability to recover from the crisis while preserving wellbeing. It is incumbent upon us to make the impact of the workplace a positive one.
By incorporating a Road Map, will help everyone to navigate and have the collective ability to recover from this crisis while preserving wellbeing. It is up to all of us to make the impact of the new workplace a positive one.