Getting back to the office is something that has been on the horizon for many in the past few weeks. Starting from today it is a reality for most. Having gotten used to the working from home routine, employees now have to up-sticks and head back to their office set up, which may be a very different set up than they were once accustomed to. For businesses, it is important to get back to as normal a way of working as possible, while protecting staff’s health in the process. That may be easier said than done. Here are some tips to make the transition smoother
Firstly, don’t bring back all of your staff in one go. Businesses need to establish which roles they absolutely need to have in the office, and plan accordingly, so as to reduce the health risk to employees.
Good hygiene practice would be to make sure that every device gets a proper clean before coming in.
To establish a gradual returning process, firms could bring workers back in the reverse order in which they sent them home to work, for example. Scheduling rotating shifts for employees who are back in the office will also be key to maintaining social-distancing policies, and to avoiding full office occupancy.
It will be necessary to increase the distance between workspaces, and to strengthen hygiene procedures. Remind staff about regular hand-washing, providing hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment is also advised when returning employees to work. Temperature checks could also be implemented for visitors entering the building.
Social events will probably get a little bit less social, the number of staff attending team meetings should be limited, and in-person visits to the office will be restricted. After all, the past few months have demonstrated, if anything, that Zoom or Skype make for viable alternatives to real-life conversations.
Cleaning up the digital mess that weeks of remote work might have caused will be a top priority for IT teams when workers start coming back into the office.
The same devices are going to be connecting directly into the company’s corporate network, and making sure that laptops are clean and free of malware will be critical. Implement a process for digital sanitation that will ensure a degree of hardware security, preserve multi-factor authentication and, if necessary, keep VPNs up and running.
Security was one of the most important challenges for CIOs as employees switched to remote working, and will still be an on-going issue as staff return to work.
Prepare for a number of staff to stay at home
Be it due to personal health reasons or personal preference, a proportion of the workforce won’t be returning to the office anytime soon. It is recommended to keep staff working from home where possible. Business leaders need to make sure that the technology infrastructure remains in place to support remote work.
That switch might be necessary again in the near future should a second wave hit, but could also be required in the more distant future, if other disasters hit. From an employee benefit, remote working has effectively switched to constituting a core part of business continuity.
Businesses should further accelerate the adoption of remote-collaboration apps, high-performance networks, and flexible cloud solutions.
It has come as a challenge to many businesses to stay connected during the recent pandemic. With the majority of companies adopting work from home practices, communicating has been key. Over the weeks we have learned to adapt to online meetings to keep staff in the loop. Maintaining this communication is vital going forward.
With many returning staff now used to their at-home work routine, managers should also give employees plenty of time to familiarize themselves with working in an office again. Traveling to work, sharing a space with colleagues, or even re-connecting to corporate networks and setting up the office workspace, will require re-adjustment. It might be worth developing re-orientation processes and setting up plenty of one-to-one meetings to regularly check-in on employees.
Requiring people to show up to work would be a company’s biggest mistake. Staff may require staying at home for a number of different reasons. Business leaders need to empathise with staff and prioritise their wellbeing to make sure that the staff keeps trusting their managers.
Employees will be cautious about returning to work due to the risk of exposure. Physical and mental health therefore becomes a top priority for all organisations.