Return to Work: How Your Office Should Change

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Life may be returning to some sense of normalcy. Lockdown restrictions are gradually easing even as countries have yet to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. As a result, some businesses have been allowed to re-open, and employees are slowly returning to work. Is your office ready to begin operations and ensure the safety of your workers?

Not “Business as Usual”

Because you’re opening the office without a potential cure in sight for the virus, the typical setting will not apply:

  • All teams in an open-plan layout
  • Shared workstations
  • Communal kitchens and pantries
  • Team meetings
  • Social interactions

Changes to your office setup, usual activities, and movement will be necessary to minimize the risk of infection. It’s crucial to get your return-to-work plan right because employees never forget negative experiences. As much as this plan secures the safety of your people, it also plays a critical role in retaining talent.

With the investment that has gone into hiring the right people, from using innovative recruitment software to improving employee packages, you don’t want to lose good workers.

Where do you start?

Find out whether your building is ready for occupancy

The Centers for Disease Control offers guidelines for employers who are re-opening their businesses. It covers a list of what to check, from the HVAC to the mechanical and life safety systems. It also includes identifying instances for exposure to COVID-19. A return-to-work plan will fail from the get-go if your office building isn’t suitable for restoring operations.

Work with your team to develop a plan

Whether you’re running a startup or an established business, use key personnel in developing your plan. It’s not just your human resources people who will have insight; it’s also your IT and operations teams. This plan should cover communication within the organization and with clients, tracking employee well-being, and following changes in local and state guidelines.

Employees returning should be identified

man doing paperworks

Because of automated processes and business apps, an entire team can efficiently work from home — and still deliver their expected output. So not everyone in your organization has to return to the office.

About three-quarters of businesses are bringing back workers in phases. That should take care of social distancing measures. Determine who will return with the following in mind:

  • Those who may want to come voluntarily
  • Those whose tasks are critical to on-site work
  • Those who feel their productivity would be better in the office

Develop rules of engagement in the office

Minimize health risks to your staff and clients with an easy-to-follow guide. You’ll want to limit team meetings to a few essential roles. You’ll also need to limit the use and occupancy of the elevators. Communal spaces need to have clear signs, such as where people are allowed to sit, in which direction foot traffic should flow, and the like.

Remind your employees to avoid shaking hands and limit social interaction to two. And at all times, social distancing should be followed. Client visits should also be limited.

Prepare the office

Other than placing visible, easy-to-read signs, clean and sanitize your office. You’ll need to place hand sanitizers in crucial areas; motion-sensor receptacles may be a good idea. Establish a process wherein employees and visitors will be health-screened before entering your office.

Businesses will never be the same again, not until a vaccine for the virus is developed. Until such time, your organization needs to ensure the safety of your employees and still be operational.

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