Before you return to the office
1st May 2020
The big question on everyone’s mind right now is, how are we going to return to work post COVID-19?
We will inevitably return to work, while the “when” is still ambiguous, the more important question is how? How does this new way of working look? What, as business leaders, do we need to consider and prepare for when we have employees return?
Most importantly, what changes need to be made to ensure the health and safety of our teams?
Our first consideration and foremost priority is maintaining healthy business operations. When restrictions are lifted, there will still be an immediate concern and obligation for employers to take health and safety measures.
Business leaders should plan to be flexible and ready to make necessary workplace changes in order to reopen their doors. New and intensified health and safety protocols will be necessary not only to be in accordance with government guidelines but to ensure the safety of employees.
As champions of organisational change, MovePlan supports the challenge of change in the workplace. Here’s how we are encouraging, empowering and leading companies to implement new standards post COVID-19.
1. Establish policies and practices for a healthy work environment
It’s more than promoting good handwashing and coughing into your elbow. Guidelines and regulations put in place by the WHO, CDC and federal or local governments need to be followed. Make sure you are checking official agency websites regularly for updates.
Though these guidelines are helpful, they may not be extensive enough to ensure the safety of employees. Your company should assess working conditions and take precautionary measures to ensure you are doing everything possible to maintain a healthy work environment.
These measures should include physical distancing protocols and sanitation practices. Strategies implemented at offices include site markings on the floor directing distance and foot traffic, scheduling additional office sanitising, creating new standards for in-person meetings, and limiting the use of conference rooms.
Updates should be provided regularly, and all changes should be clearly communicated. Consider creating an infectious disease response plan and circulating it to the staff, so they are informed and prepared.
2. Configuration of work areas
COVID-19 isn’t going to change just the way we operate, but the space we work in will physically change. With physical distancing standards requiring employees to be 6ft (2m) apart, the safe-six will become the new norm. Configuration of work areas will be essential to limiting exposure of the disease and keeping the workplace safe.
Creating safe distances requires your organisation to take fast action to evaluate the date, create a plan and implement to fit the immediate need for workplace separation.
Keep in mind the different means of office configuration that may be needed for your office:
- Creating appropriate distance by moving workstations
- Installing physical barriers between workstations
- Decrease the number of seats
- Reevaluating the protocols around the use of hoteling spaces, hot desking and free address seating
- Evaluate all services in your workplace, including those provided by your landlord and building
3. Manage and mitigate risk
If Coronavirus has taught us anything, it is that planning, and preparation is the best defense. Returning to work post COVID-19 still holds a risk level, and your company should be prepared for a possible outbreak.
Consider what your contingency and business continuity plan states in the case that employees become sick or infected:
- Identify who is responsible for ensuring the response plan is in place and procedures are followed
- Determine how you will identify someone at risk and what the response will be
- Flexible work arrangements should be decided before employees return to the office
- Make sure that IT systems are ready to support long-term remote or working from home scenarios
While business continuity has been a focus, our top priority is to the employees that sustain our businesses. It is important to remember that this is a challenging and emotional time for everyone. Change is difficult under normal circumstances, but under these conditions, change can provide added stress. Employees will need time to adjust to this new way of working.
4. Establish open communication and address concerns.
A key principle in leading effective change is communication. Direct and honest communication is paramount to keeping employees safe and business operating.
Concerns that should be addressed before reopening:
- Changes in sick leave policy
- Policies around furlough, remote work, pandemic response
- Protocols for bringing back employees
- Physical guidelines and disciplinary measures for violating guidelines
MovePlan has over 30 years of experience supporting change in the workplace. We are leaders in effectively navigating change for our clients to eliminate down time. We can support you in implementing change by communicating new ways of working. We can help you and your business #ReturnToWork.