COVID-19 has been one of the most significant events that have rocked the business sector since the global financial crisis. As a result of the pandemic, organizations had to make rapid changes to how they work to ensure business continuity while also guaranteeing the safety of their employees.
However, two years into the pandemic, organizations are beginning to consider transitioning back to their office after the lockdown. And if you are planning on bringing your employees back to the office, full-time or part-time, you may still have to follow certain rules to keep the workplace safe. In this guide, we've listed out protocols and things you should keep in mind and how to prepare for the transition. So, let's dive in!
Top tips to ensure a safe and comfortable transition for your employees
There may be a variety of protocols that you'd want your employees to follow once you decide to move your workforce back under one roof. Thus, you have to ensure your employees are aware of your guidelines and protocols to feel safe returning to work.
1. Do proper planning for a phased return
Your employees have been working from home for a long time, and they may not feel comfortable being surrounded by others even after the pandemic.
You can plan a phased work schedule for your employees based on their departments, teams, etc. while maintaining social distancing protocols. Doing so can ensure the move is as smooth as possible.
For example, you can have various groups and assign different weekdays for each group to come in. For example, group A can come in on Mondays and Wednesdays, whereas group B can come to the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also talk to your employees to understand the best way to go about this and plan a schedule where teams that are generally required to work together can go into the office on similar days.
2. Ensure you offer a thorough employee screening
With employees coming back from different locations, you may have to vet employees before they enter the workspace for everyone’s safety. This entails:
- Determining if employees have been partially, entirely, or not at all vaccinated.
- Checking their temperature and ensuring they wear a mask at all times.
- Posing the proper inquiries. For example, If they or anybody in their family experienced symptoms in the last two weeks?
- Encouraging people who are showing COVID symptoms to follow the set isolation protocols.
3. Create safety measures and guidelines
The virus is still not completely eliminated. Thus, companies should create safety guidelines based on proper updates, planning, and team cohesion. A corporation should, in theory, provide safe meeting locations and break areas where formal and informal conversations might occur.
Furthermore, the recommendations should include a provision for flexible or hybrid work arrangements, as it is preferable to avoid peak commute hours and crowded public transportation. It's also a good idea to practice social separation and wear face masks. Additionally, carpooling should be avoided.
4. Facilitate hygiene at work
Maintaining proper workplace hygiene has always been important, but never more so than in the post-COVID-19 era.
Hand sanitizers should be available in several areas across the workplace. It should contain at least 60% alcohol and be supplied as needed to guarantee that personnel can clean their hands when soap and water are unavailable.
There must be hot and cold water washing facilities, antibacterial soap, and hand dryers/paper towels provided. Encourage employees and visitors to wash their hands often, especially after interacting with others or touching potentially contaminated objects. Additionally, to limit the risk of contamination, use EPA-registered disinfectants to clean surfaces or equipment that many individuals have handled.
The CDC recommends cleaning surfaces at least once a day in workplaces where COVID-19 has not been proven or suspected. Also, assemble any personal protective equipment needed for working with cleaning materials.
5. Keep a check on your employees’ mental health
Most of us are stressed or anxious due to the pandemic. Making the workplace more pleasant and friendly is one of the ways you boost employee morale. Remind employees to make plans for their breaks, encourage them to listen to music or podcasts, or to take a 15-minute walk just to relax.
Ensure your employees can talk about their struggles and mental state with colleagues. And if they’d like to talk to a professional, make sure your business provides them a platform where they can reach out to them with ease.
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6. Try out a hybrid workspace model
According to a Microsoft survey of 30,000 employees, 70% expect flexible working hours, and 50% said they would leave a company if it did not provide it. Therefore, as a business, you will need to consider providing flexible working hours and hybrid or work-from-home models to help your employees stay motivated and productive at work.
The objective is to build a hybrid workplace model in which 60% of employees work a few days a week in the office, 20% in new office locations, and the remainder from home. However, in a hybrid work environment like this, you have to pay close attention to addressing collaboration and communication challenges with most people working remotely.
Particularly in areas like content creation, marketing, or design, where collaboration is key, remote and, hybrid teams can face numerous challenges. The communication gap and misunderstandings can eventually bring down their productivity and momentum if not addressed from the get-go. To avoid this, you can implement business phone systems so that the communication is fast and smooth.
Therefore, it is crucial to have cloud-based tools like Chanty, ClickUp, Fyle, Zoom, etc. These tools play a pivotal role in bringing teams together onto the same platform to increase productivity and enable seamless collaborations.
Returning to the office can have a positive impact
Employers and employees alike may find the prospect of returning to work scary. Some may hesitate to leave the home office, and returning to "normal" may feel uncomfortable for them. But for others, they may look forward to finally working with their colleagues from the same space.
The pandemic became a major stumbling block in our lives. But it's crucial to keep a good attitude. After all, this crisis has helped us reinvent and reshape the workplace and reaffirm the reality that we are social animals who want and need interaction with others. Connection is more important than ever, but so is safety.