We have all been living with the Covid-19 pandemic for a while now. For most of us, it has meant working remotely for months. As the Government begins to loosen the restrictions around the pandemic businesses are thinking about returning to the office.
But what does that look like? A lot has changed since we were last in the workplace and changes will have to be made before we can return.
To help you we have identified 11 key steps you will need to make before reopening your office.
Employee safety is vital
Before your customer needs, before any financial concerns, businesses should ensure that their employees are returning to a safe, healthy environment and Covid-19 secure workplace.
You might have to change seating plans or even reduce the number of employees in the office at one time. You will also need to consider personal protection equipment (PPE). If your building allows it, you can lock the front door to stop unannounced visitors.
Customers are keen to understand how businesses are dealing with Covid-19 and the treatment of your staff is a big factor in how they will perceive your brand.
Don’t rush back in
At Infotech we are going to have small groups of employees return for one or two days a week in the office. This is to allow us all to get used to working in the office environment again.
It will also help us set up a workplace that is safe for everyone working inside it. This will allow us to fine-tune our safety measures. With just 2 or 3 of us in the office, we can maintain a high degree of social distancing while also making ourselves fully available to our customers.
Remember right now the Government guideline is still to work from home if you can. However, for many businesses, there is a need to return to the workplace to keep the business moving forward. Making that return to work in stages will likely be the safest approach.
Follow appropriate guidelines
Health officials have said it’s critical to adhere to guidelines to help stem the pandemic, but following and even exceeding them can also benefit the mental health of your employees.
The Government have been proactive in supplying guidelines for a range of businesses and industries. Check these guidelines and make sure that your workspace can be adapted to meet these guidelines.
Reevaluate your office space
A lot of companies will be taking a hard look at their office space needs going forward. If more employees are working remotely, can you get by with less space? And how will that space look in the future? There’s a lot to consider.
You will likely need to change the layout of your workspace to allow for social distancing. You will need to give thought to walkways, common areas and access to toilets.
Then there is the decision on the office in general. The majority of us have been working remotely for 3 months. For many businesses, they have found that remote working is a legitimate option for their business. The best piece of advice we can give here is not to rush a decision.
Things will be different
If Covid-19 hasn’t changed things permanently, it certainly has for a while. We've all heard about the 'new normal' we will have to get used to and it's true. Businesses may need to roll with a few punches, figure out a few things along the way before a new routine can settle.
The way we all interact at work will of course change. So will the way we work. Many businesses might not have the room to make their workplace Covid secure for their whole workforce.
This might mean splitting your workforce between being in the workplace and working remotely. So even if some of you are returning to the office it might not yet spell the end to video calls!
Become the ‘return to work’ expert for your customers
If you are returning to your offices before your customers then your experience could help them immensely. Because of the type of business we are we have been very lucky to act as the 'work from home' experts. We hope we can also achieve that when we return to the office.
To achieve this you can call each customer once or twice a week to see how it’s going. This keeps your finger on the pulse. By opening your office, you can be a proving ground to ensure processes worked. Changes and approaches that work for you can help your customers, so let them know.
A lot has changed, so can you
If we have learnt anything over this pandemic, it's that it's okay to do things differently. It might be the best thing you can do. It's okay to accept change and to get through the Covid-19 crisis we are going to have to make a lot of changes.
Many will have had the 'old school' thinking of wanting employees close to me and each other. Covid-19 has taught us that doesn't have to be the case.
Management styles will have to adapt to how we're working today. That needs to be a more scheduled and carefully thought out approach. Since time is limited, you need to be more effective and efficient with your time.
Restrict access to your employees
Before the lockdown, it might well have been common for people to be coming in and out of your office. That will need to stop for now. You need to protect your employees and that will mean making changes to who can access your office.
If your employees have to go to customer sites, as we do at Infotech, you will need to implement new guidelines. You will need to work with your customers to make sure everyone is safe during these visits. For example, maybe it has to be in off-hours or when no one else is around.
One-size Doesn’t fit all
After a few months of employees working remotely, many companies have noticed a common trend: some workers made the transition smoothly, but others did not.
As more businesses start to reopen their offices, they may need to consider a hybrid model of being in the office and working remotely—from the entire staff down to individuals who may want to or need to split their time.
You may have to keep the option of remote working open to employees as everyone transitions into the next stage of living with the Covid-19 pandemic. It isn't going away anytime soon so finding a way for your business to carry on working is vital.
Review your technology security
The last 3 months have completely changed the way we work. That will have effected the technology within your business and your security. As we head towards a possible in office work from home hybrid technology will play a bigger role for your business.
You must make sure that technology is secure. We are working in ways we have never done before so you have to adapt your IT security policies to reflect your new way of working.
Reopening your office is going to be a unique experience. So much has changed in recent months and suddenly there brand new concerns to consider.
That is going to be the same with your technology. You are going to be using it in new ways and it's important you have it set up correctly and above all that it's secure.