The COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown forced many organizations to adapt to new ways of doing business. But with lockdown measures easing across economies, companies are slowly reopening offices and considering returning to work.
Before reopening offices, make sure to look at the government’s mandate in your area (national, federal, and local). If you have offices in multiple locations, pay attention to local government notifications. While some jurisdictions prohibit employees to return to work without permission from state and local authorities, others require employees to continue their work from home. Follow the norms to avoid litigation or penalization. Also, make sure all the health and safety guidelines (in accordance with government mandates) are put in place.
Set your post-lockdown priorities straight. Even if you get the permission to open the offices, keep in mind that your employees are still concerned about their health and safety. Take this opportunity to make a remote working policy. Ask your human resource department to look at productivity metrics across teams and decide on the employees who can continue working from home.
Companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Shopify - all are devising strategies that allows employees to permanently work from home if they so desire. Expect the business after lockdown to be different as social distancing will be at the heart of every major decision, therefore, don’t ask people to come back unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Communicate directly with the employees the reasons for which they have to come to office. Also, consider staggering the work timings so that fewer people are in office at one time.
If you are opting for a more flexible model (with some employees in the office while others working from home or different office timings), figure out a way to create a seamless communication flow to keep all groups informed.
Work with the building management and figure out the procedure for entering the office building (number of people in the elevator, requirement for protective equipment, availability of sanitizers, etc.). You may need to put signs in place for the better understanding of your employees. Similarly, reorganize the reception area to make sure that visitors maintain social distancing while they wait for appointments.
Take a long and hard look at the HVAC system — from ventilation to humidity to temperature control. Ensure all these systems are compliant with post-COVID norms, and are optimally prepared for employee safety.
Establish protocols in common areas like the kitchen and cafeteria, and ensure the availability disposable supplies, and that there are proper seating arrangements in place. At the same time, see that the housekeeping implements a routine cleaning cycle as part of their standard operational procedures. Consider establishing similar protocols for the restrooms as well. Other areas to consider include copy rooms, conference rooms, and IT department.
Ensure that the employees are trained in the new post-COVID norms. As soon as employees return to work, communicate exactly what social distancing in the workplace will looks like, and the exact protocols they are expected to follow. A formal talent management training on the first day will enable you to get started on the right note. Prepare a written manual for the employees so that they have something to refer to in case of ambiguity.
As things start to fall in place, it’s important to keep people’s health and safety concerns in mind. Doing so, will bring you employee goodwill that will create loyalty for the years to come.