Before calling your employees back for work, follow the below steps to develop a sustainable return to workplace plan for their safety and comfort.
The surge in COVID-19 cases forced companies and employees to embrace the work from home culture. In the initial few months, employees enjoyed the time spent working from home. Gradually, however, productivity started to decline, and employees found it difficult to balance their personal and professional responsibilities. The increased cost was also borne by employees with power and internet bills jumping 3-5 times the normal.
While everyone missed office, more than 83% were still not keen on going there without getting vaccinated first. With vaccination insight and a drop in active cases, everyone is hopeful of offices opening soon. Before companies open offices again, they need to develop a sustainable return to workplace plan. Through this plan, they will be able to answer some important questions:
- Who gets back and when?
- What changes will be made at the workplace?
- How will the company ensure everyone’s safety?
Most companies acknowledge that establishing a normal office routine so soon will be difficult. Companies should develop a sustainable return to workplace plan and gradually open the offices in the initial months while remaining flexible about employee preferences regarding work timings and place. Companies should strictly implement social distancing norms and protocols in the office premises to ensure their safety and comfort and avoid a possible outbreak.
Here are the ways for your company to develop a sustainable return to workplace plan for its employees:
- Open the office in phases: Before opening a floor or department, create a plan for their return. You can divide the department into different categories and prioritize the employees who will return first. Opening the office in phases will provide a structure as you go back to the workplace and will set expectations for everyone and provide a common ground for employees and leaders to understand the change in business processes. The future is unpredictable, making it crucial for companies to develop a sustainable return to workplace plan. If an outbreak occurs, only key employees might be required to work from the office. Thus, it is essential to be flexible and ready to deal with any adverse situation.
- Work in shifts: Ensure that the number of employees returning to the workplace is not more than the number specified by the reduced capacity plan. Ask teams to work on alternate days or weeks and give them different reporting times. This will prevent crowding in lobbies and elevators.
- Daily health check: Install kiosks at the workplace for daily temperature checks. An employee with a high fever or showing any other covid-19 symptoms must be sent home.
- Protective equipment: Wearing face masks must be made mandatory for all employees during office hours. Request them to adhere to these guidelines throughout their time on the office premises.
- Make some mandatory changes to the office: The office design plays a vital role in ensuring employee safety. This includes workstation spacing and hand-wash or sanitizing kiosks.
- Workstations: Desks should be placed at a distance of 6 feet from each other. Your company will have to reduce the floor capacity by 40-50% to adhere to these norms. They might need to put dividers for workstation distancing and remove unwanted chairs and desks.
- Hand-wash and sanitizer kiosks: To prevent the spread of the virus, install hand-wash and sanitizer kiosks near the workstations, meeting rooms, reception area, etc.
- Regular cleaning: The office must be cleaned multiple times a day. Ask the cleaning staff to wipe doorknobs, elevator keypads, touchscreens, etc. In case of any Covid-19 positive case, get the area sanitized with the help of third-party vendors.
- Cafeteria: Companies should request employees to bring lunch/dinner from home as part of safety norms. The meals and snacks provided in the cafeteria should be served in disposables to avoid contamination.
- Elevators: Elevators are an unavoidable enclosed space in tall buildings. Allow fewer people to ride the lift and request employees to avoid talking when standing close to each other.
- Share a return to workplace plan with employees: When it’s about reopening offices, communication with employees is quite important. To ease their fears, develop a sustainable return to workplace plan and share it with employees.
Measures for a safe return to workplace according to the time of:
- Two weeks before reopening:
- Broadcast the office reopening date.
- The reopening plan can be shared on the employee access portal or via emails.
- Provide the details of the new setup before employees enter the office.
- One week prior reopening:
- Set up a meeting with health officials, the management, and human resources to review the plan.
- Check beforehand who is interested in returning to the office.
- On the day of the opening:
- Send a message to the employees regarding their shift timings.
- Check with employees how they felt on their first day back at work.
Employees are quite keen on coming back to the office but are skeptical due to the COVID-19 situation. Companies should encourage employees to come work from the office but not force anyone. They should develop a sustainable return to office plan, ensuring those who decide to work from the office feel at ease. If employees feel comfortable in the office, it is bound to improve their productivity and boost overall growth.
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