Although we might still be some time away from corona fading into history, the silver lining is here. With the vaccines comes hope. It’s time to gear up, quite literally, for a return-to-office.
Returning to the workplace wouldn’t be easy for more than one reason. For one, life ranks higher than work in the larger scheme of things. Therefore, it would be naïve to think a group email can bring back people to work. Nothing short of a well-planned and organized effort will work. It would be best if you plan, prepare, communicate, and convince people to return.
We present to you a practical guide that will help HR and workplace/facility managers. Starting from focus areas, we detail out one step at a time. Here we go.
A transition kicks up a lot of dust. Things that matter and that don’t get mixed up, making prioritization difficult. To avoid it, we need to separate the wheat from the chaff for a more organized effort. At a macro level, a transition back to work would involve three focus areas:
The first thing on the to-do list of HR and workplace managers is to create a dedicated pandemic support team with members from various functions. This team would function as the central node for planning and implementing a COVID19 workspace policy and protocol.
Managing the implementation of safety protocols will not be possible without technology. It would help reduce dependence on human effort and presence at workspaces. From maintaining social distancing to housekeeping, technology can ensure adherence to the safety guidelines.
Fifty-one percent of 1000 people surveyed by PWC cited fear of getting infected as the reason for not returning to work. When you plan to bring back people to work, the perception of safety is as important as the measures in place. If organizations fail at creating it, the back-to-office efforts might not yield the desired result.
Let’s explore each one of these in greater detail.
Policy and protocols are central to your return to office program. An essential component of policy creation and implementation is a dedicated pandemic support and response team. Ideally, it must include leaders from various functions and business teams.
Your pandemic support team will not just serve as an advisory agency but as a team that implements and maintains the safety protocols. It needs to have a budget and resource allocation similar to any other business function. It also needs to be empowered to make purchase decisions for protective gear, equipment, and technology as and when required.
The starting point for your post-pandemic return policy has to be the CDC's employer information for office buildings. All workplace and HR managers need to be conversant with these guidelines. Here are some of the salient points from the guidelines:
Bonus Read: How to reopen offices safely?
The nature and scale of changes for a safe return to office demand the application of technology. Workplace managers need to include technology and define its scope at the planning stage itself. Tech interventions could be at various levels, depending on your requirement.
Recommended Reading: WHO Guidelines for Office Sanitization
Safety perception is as important as safety measures.
Communication to employees about requesting a return to the office needs to carry visible transformations of the workspace. You could include a video tour of the changes carried out at the entry, floor layout, common areas, tech additions, and so on.
As employees return, the changes must be visible and highlighted with display boards and other forms of on-site communications. Housekeeping, once hidden, has to be more visible. Inform employees of deep cleaning efforts that take place after work hours. To that effect, they should be discouraged from leaving personal stuff or memorabilia on their desk.
Deploy multiple forms and channels of communication to build confidence among employees about the safety measures in place. You could also use a few posters from CDC’s print resources.
Before you announce the return-to-office program, know that it's going to come with a cost. A well-laid-out plan, and the right technology partner, can ensure a healthy ROI on every dollar invested. WorkinSync’s solutions are cost-effective and go a step beyond merely ensuring compliance.
You can also download a checklist of things to do when designing your return-to-office strategy.
From a compliance perspective, stay updated on guidelines and regulations in place for employers and office buildings. Here are links to a few resources that will help you prepare better.
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