Thursday, 31 December 2020 09:52

Returning to the Office After COVID-19: How to Bring Employees Back

Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath is one of the biggest challenges businesses will face in our time. In order to keep employees safe while continuing to operate, many offices have gone remote. As more and more Americans are starting to get vaccinated, you may be wondering how to safely bring employees back to the office. Today, we’re covering things you should consider when returning to the office after COVID-19.

What are local restrictions dictating about operation and capacity?

First and foremost, you’ll need to be aware of state and local restrictions. It is likely you may only be able to operate at a fraction of your capacity for some time. If you’re in a leased space, what are the property management’s requirements and restrictions? And what types of services are they offering in support of reentry (i.e. increased frequency of day porters in common use areas)? These are all things you’ll need to consider as you put together a plan for bringing employees back.

Evaluate staff for reentry

While some Americans have adjusted well to working from home, many report that remote work is not conducive to efficient and effective work production. Here are some possible reentry logistics you’ll want to consider.

Many staff members do not have areas within their home to utilize as a proper workspace. Some staff utilize programs that require more bandwidth for upload/download of work than is achievable at home. Some have a need to connect with their coworkers in spontaneous and planned ways that can’t be reproduced remotely. In addition, our homes have also become schools for many families adding to the space constraints, bandwidth needs, and distraction level.

When considering who gets priority to reenter the office, leadership needs to play an active role in reviewing, buying-in, and signing-off on the process and procedures regarding staff selection to reenter and how the spaces are to be used.

Prepare the space for re-entry

Once you know your capacity and use restrictions and have a better idea of staff that is interested in reentering the office, you’ll need to make sure the staff is prepared and the space is conducive to being utilized in a safe manner.

Training should be provided to staff reentering the office so that they understand their new responsibilities (e.g. how to use the space safely, how to clean the space, what is not allowed in the space, etc.) Cleaning/sanitation stations and PPE should be provided throughout the space for staff use. Clear and obvious signage should be provided throughout the space so that staff knows the path/direction of travel, how to clean common use items after use, and rules for use of the space. A daily questionnaire of symptoms and temperature check should be logged upon entry into the office space by staff and visitors. Increase the frequency of day porter and janitorial cleanings in high touch areas.

If you have more staff wanting to return than allowable capacity, consider alternating workdays for staff (e.g. M/W, T/TH). Utilize enclosed spaces with doors rather than open areas for individual staff use (i.e. one person per office, door to be closed when in use). Reserve open areas for collaboration needs or utilize conference rooms that are much larger than needed to allow staff to remain spread out from one another. Provide plans showing assigned seating or designated hoteling spots for use. Remove seating from all spots that are not allowed for use. Provide plexiglass at reception for check-in procedures. Consider no common use dishes and eliminate eating/congregating in common use spaces (e.e break room, copy room, etc.). Consider what appliances will be allowed for use.

Moving forward: impacts of returning to the office after COVID-19

The world around us has evolved. The way we conduct business has been forever changed by the pandemic. Companies that once thought remote work wasn’t feasible found out it is, while others reaffirmed that remote work leads to dips in productivity.

No matter what, your business needs have likely changed. As a result, we recommend looking at leases coming up over the next 18-24 months. Evaluate your space needs to determine what you need now versus what you will need in a post-Covid world. What staff members really want/need to come into the office? Can you implement a new hoteling strategy going forward?

Get help bringing employees back after COVID-19

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about bringing employees back after COVID-19, we are here to help. At Lavoro, we are ready to assist with the reentry evaluation, strategy, and execution. We can help you implement an appropriate plan for your business moving forward.

Contact us today to learn more about returning to the office after COVID-19.