5 June

Post-Pandemic Planning: Return to the Traditional Workspace

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.

4 May

5 Tips for Getting Productivity Back on Track After an Extended Leave

With businesses and venues beginning to open back up for operations in the near future following the COVID-19 stay at home orders, many entrepreneurs are looking to hit the ground running to make up for the time away. After spending several weeks working remotely, however, many business owners may be wondering just how to best transition their teams back to working on site again. Though the nation has proven true perseverance in such an unprecedented time, such a degree of change has never been maneuvered before, leaving many of us anxious to get things back on track quickly (and smoothly) as soon as things are deemed safe for their return. So just how does one go about getting productivity back on track after an extended leave?

Getting Productivity Back on Track

When it comes to getting your business operations back in full swing, it’s not as simple as returning to work and expecting things to magically go back to pre-social distancing mode right away. In fact, things may never get back to the same norm that was experienced before the entire world adapted to the pandemic by implementing work-from-home measures. There will likely be many obstacles and bumps along the way as entrepreneurs attempt to get back in the black and transition their workforce practices back to traditional work environments.

“It’s far from clear quite what normal will look like after COVID-19, but it seems likely that our desire to trek into the office will be tested after a prolonged period of acclimatization towards remote working from both workers and managers alike,” explains Forbes.com.

The best plan of attack for smoothing the transition and getting things going as quickly as possible is to outline a comprehensive yet flexible objective for the process. It’s important to consider the circumstances surrounding not only your business, but your business team, and to maintain a certain level of flexibility as things begin to move from one dynamic to the next. To help, here are 5 tips for helping to get productivity back on track with the return to work nearing:

1 – Create a Phased Plan

With so many unknowns and uncertainties surrounding the phasing out of social distancing, a gradual approach to reopening traditional operations seems the safest choice. Though many may be gearing up to ramp productivity 100% from day one, that may not be the best approach to getting things back on track effectively.

It’s important to create a phased plan that will account for the difficulties your team members and clients have been dealing with during social distancing. With so many demands on them to adjust to working from home, the best plan for returning will likely be in smaller phases that allow time to plan for schedule changes and juggling routines.

2 – Get Feedback from Your Team Frequently

Just as we’ve been doing for weeks while we work distantly, staying in contact with team members as you plan for the return is going to be critical to keeping the transition smooth. Try to keep regular meetings and conferences with partners, department heads, managers and other team members in order to make sure everyone is in the loop as far as communicating the phased plan being generated for the return to normal operations.

During these regular communications, be sure to gauge the feelings and concerns of your colleagues and coworkers. This is an excellent opportunity to get an up-front read on what your team will need from you in order to successfully transition from remote working scenarios. Be sure to consider these issues in the coming weeks to keep schedule delays and conflicts from affecting your increasing productivity plans.

3 – Be Clear About Expectations and Protocol

Another critical component of your communication efforts with your team will be to convey any and all policies and expectations that will be set into effect as things move away from distance working and back to traditional spaces. In order for your team to be able to plan for the transition, they must know first what to expect, and second, when to expect these changes to occur.

One of the fastest ways to derail your productivity efforts is with a breakdown in communication. When colleagues and employees aren’t adequately informed of timelines and procedures, it can cause major stressors among already struggling households with multiple schedule changes in place. In other words, you need to keep your plan clear and concise and it needs to be communicated as quickly as possible to everyone involved.

4 – Flexibility and Resources

With workers everywhere adapting to strict distancing regulations and abrupt cancellations of practically every public interaction available – school and work included – our lives were turned upside-down over the past several weeks with no discernable notice. If anything, it has proven our ability to persevere in the face of adversity, but that doesn’t mean it has been easy – not by any stretch of the imagination.

Now, as things slowly begin their return to a pre-pandemic norm, it’s important for employers of all walks to take into consideration the degree of chaos and change their team has been facing during this time. By understanding that most households have multiple work schedules and a sudden change in childcare schedules and education as well, employers will have a better sense of the level of flexibility that will be needed to transition away from working remotely again.

5 – Be Open to Change

At the end of the day, it must be said that this pandemic has ultimately shown both employees and employers that working remotely is not only possible in many cases, but preferable as well. While not all situations fall under this category, many employees have now seen that it is entirely possible to efficiently complete their job while working from home – a fact which also fits nicely with many home dynamics as well.

“Remote working has become a necessity for the majority of workers, and it’s shown businesses – some of which might have been skeptical about allowing staff to work from home – that it is possible to maintain productivity and communication,” explains Andrew Roughan, managing director for Plexal in an interview with Forbes.com.

As an alternative solution to choosing one extreme or the other (working from home or an abrupt return to full-time office work), coworking has become a viable consideration for many employers as well. By offering employees a professionally rented workspace to increase productivity but with the convenience of a shorter commute from home, coworking spaces are proving to be a valuable transitional asset as well.

Essentially, to reach optimal productivity and keep things running smoothly as the pandemic requirements phase out, employers need to not only remain flexible, but also open to change. Each scenario will be different, but it’s important not to entirely rule out distance working – via from home or from coworking spaces – from your phases. This situation may very well permanently change the way we approach the structure of the workplace to a model that’s much more centered on the needs and availability of its team members – something which could prove invaluable in terms of productivity going forward.