With the world slowly beginning to open back up after pandemic social distancing for weeks, employers and employees may be wondering what to expect upon their return to the office. After an extended period away from the traditional workspace structures, many find themselves wondering how to smoothly transition back to work in lieu of health and safety concerns, schedule changes, and newly adjusted household routines. So how do you plan for all of the post-pandemic dynamics and seamlessly return to the traditional workspace while remaining healthy and primed to move forward?
Returning to the Traditional Workspace
Being in particularly uncharted territory, many employers are finding themselves struggling to meet both the needs of their employees as well as the needs of their businesses in terms of finding the best path for returning to pre-pandemic operations. The fact is, however, things will likely never return to the same dynamics experienced prior to COVID-19.
The new norm is one that will now include a more hybrid version combining, at the very least, the traditional office workspaces with a more hyper-vigilant health and wellness routine. In many cases, this will also involve being mindful of the changed family and household dynamics of employees and including these with newly adapted in-space and distance working conditions. The point is, no one specific plan will fit the needs of every workforce returning to careers outside their homes.
Primed to Move Forward
Many employers are finding themselves wondering how to safely and effectively get their workforce operations back on track with minimal obstacles in order to kickstart the bottom line and get productivity back on track. As with any approach in business, the key to remember as things begin opening back up and returning to more traditional operations, is to remain flexible and open to change. Understanding that this pandemic has placed an enormous strain on both employers and employees and being receptive to new ideas as well as considerate of the needs of your team and your business, are at the center of a successful return.
Preparing for the Return to Work
Accepting that no single plan will work for every workforce, there are a few basic steps employers should consider when preparing for the return to work. By having some general policies in place, it will allow for the needed structure to guide employees upon their return as well as ease any concerns over health and safety.
It’s also important, however, to include flexibility in this plan in order to accommodate team members who have adapted to a new norm derived from social distancing. The fact is, remote working has proven to have a pivotal role in changing the traditional dynamics of the workforce and for many, continuing at least a small portion of this role moving forward can be monumental for future successes.
Setting a Plan
The key to simplifying the transition process as we come out of distancing measures, is to remain mindful of the needs of our team members and provide a certain level of structure and security simultaneously. What this means for your team specifically, will likely vary from others in your area, but the basic concepts remain the same. Here are some of the most important aspects to keep in mind when formulating the successful return to work plan:
1 – Create Necessary Safety Measures
First and foremost, the safety of your team members needs to be at the head of your plans. Carefully research and review any required and recommended health and safety guidelines as outlined by local, state, and federal professionals to ensure your return plan lies squarely within regulations. Whether this means designating an infectious disease team to serve as an in-house resource for your team going forward, or documenting the plan specifics for reference as needed, it’s imperative that your employees know what to expect upon their return.
2 -Outlining Protocol and Health Guidelines
Continuing on the legalities associated with a safe return, employers need to be certain their employees are amply informed of the measures being taken to keep them safe as well as what’s expected of them as they come back to the office. There should be thorough communications explaining any and all new sanitization efforts (cleaning efforts, new equipment, location of disinfectant materials, etc.), as well as any new policies regarding the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other cleaning routines that will be required. You will also need to ensure your team is well aware of who they can turn to with any health and safety questions or concerns in the workspace.
3 – Preparing the Workspace
Once you have a plan in place for the health and safety of your workspace environment, it’s crucial to begin practices to prepare for the return. Make sure you have all of the necessary precautions and sanitization efforts in place in order to provide the safest possible environment for your team members and clients. Whether this means stocking up on cleaning products, hand sanitizers and PPE items, or hiring a regular professional cleaning service to do scheduled disinfectant practices on site, you need to make sure your space follows the guidelines you have outlined in your documented return policies.
4 – Take Stock of Old and New Routines
One of the most important things to remember when planning the return from social distancing is to avoid outdated thinking that may be limiting your team potential. In other words, take stock of what aspects of your pre-pandemic routines that had proven success as well as consider the advantages discovered from the newer distance working routines. Chances are, your overall productivity and business success will benefit enormously by finding some form of hybrid between the two scenarios going forward.
5 – Be Flexible and Listen to the Needs of Your Team
With so many demands being made on families and individuals in this unprecedented time, the last thing you want to do as an employer is add to the strain. In order to ease the transition, and in turn, help both your team members and your bottom line, it’s imperative that you take note of what is needed by your employees as well as remain flexible in constructing what your workday will look like going forward.
Many will still be struggling with childcare or transportation issues as things slowly open back up at different rates, so being mindful of their dynamics as well as open to potential new standards is critical. This could mean allowing for shorter hours or less days actually required on-site in order to allow for continued distance working. It could also mean utilizing third-party spaces such as coworking facilities to cut down on commutes while still providing a structured work environment. Whatever it means to your facility, keeping your employees’ needs at the forefront of your return to work plan and outlining this plan clearly are the best ways to ensure the smoothest possible transition as well as jump start productivity.