2020 has been a year of unprecedented firsts. For many businesses, depending on location and environment, it may be time to tackle another: returning staff to work after an extended period at home. The unknowns of COVID-19 sent most non-essential workers home sometime in March. Employers are now faced with deciding when and how it is safe to bring workers back to the office.
How employers approach the transition back to the office will set the tone for their employees’ confidence in their own health and safety at work. Each organization’s plan will be unique to their circumstances and nature of their business. Here are five key things to take into consideration while developing your transition plan.
1. Clear and Open Communication
Just as there was constant communication when employees were sent to work from home, the same level of communication should be maintained when people are brought back into the office. Openly posting policies for social distancing, visitors, and housekeeping items to ensure everyone knows what is expected and that health and safety is a top priority. Employees thrive when presented with information.
Be prepared to receive and answer any and all questions openly and honestly. Listen to your employees and validate their concerns. Just like all employees differ, their at-home situations differ as well. They may be concerned for an ailing family member. They may be trying to juggle in-home schooling with their children. They may have an underlying illness they don’t feel comfortable disclosing. Be mindful of differing situations and know that all policies may not fit all situations.
2. Safety Protocols
Management teams must establish safety protocols that will be followed throughout the company buildings and with all staff members. As we are still currently amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this should include policies on, but not limited to:
- Daily self-health assessments
- Social distancing in common spaces
- Capacity of group sizes and limiting meetings
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements
- Clean desk policies (limiting personal memorabilia to ease nightly cleaning)
- Revised food services (if offered)
- Hygiene standards (hand washing, sanitizing, etc.)
3. Phased Re-opening
As we have all discovered while navigating the current COVID-19 climate, there are no clear-cut answers. Information changes rapidly and some decisions, while appropriate at the time, may not be the right answer the very next day after new information is given.
Employers will need to evaluate various approaches when considering bringing staff back into the office. Looking at business demands, operational needs and system requirements should help management determine who should come back when. It will also be critical to look at the office space and set-up to ensure proper social distancing can be maintained throughout floors and buildings.
While creating your phased back-to-work approach, flexibility will be key to a smooth transition. Employers should look at employees’ needs as well as the company’s and determine if certain employees can still be productive at home. Some employee considerations to review include at-home situations and health concerns. Different employees will have different levels of comfort at being back in an office setting with the potential (albeit being minimized as much as possible) risk of exposure to the virus.
Realizing in some scenarios that blanket policies will not work for everyone, being flexible with remote work policies will not only keep employees happy but can also benefit the company when needing to keep spaces from being overcrowded.
5. Ongoing Monitoring
A crucial part of any return to work plan after COVID-19 will need to include ongoing monitoring of your workplace and any implications of the virus. How will you respond to increased employee absences (whether they have contracted the virus, are caring for a sick family member, or they are not comfortable returning to work)? At what point would you need to shut down or send everyone back to work remotely (i.e. if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in the office)? Companies need to be prepared for these realities and plan for as many situations as possible. The more work put in prior to returning to work, the smoother the transition back to work will be.
As your company plans its return to the office strategy, it is important to dive into each of these topics and make sure that your team is well-prepared. MercuryHub has produced several resources that go into much more detail on these and other key considerations for returning staff to the office post COVID-19.
For expert opinions from industry leaders in Human Resources, Leadership, and Facilities Management, watch our webinar that explores how companies can reopen offices safely and efficiently.
To read more about each of the above topics, including examples, use cases, and best practices, download our return to the office guide.
And for a list of key tasks that teams responsible for return policies should complete, download our return to the office checklist.
With locations in the Los Angeles and Dallas areas, the resource professionals at MercuryHub™ have helped many companies come up with detailed transition plans to return to work after COVID-19. To learn how MercuryHub™ can help with your post-COVID-19 staffing plans, read about the benefits of our staffing model. MercuryHub™ is a one stop shop to help businesses mitigate business risks and improve operation efficiencies. Contact our team today!.