The last few years have been filled with stress and uncertainty. It’s hard to imagine that things will ever go back to normal. Regardless, at some point, we’re going to be making a return to office spaces.
It’s unclear what exactly this will look like as more employees look to continue working remotely in one way or another. Hybrid work may very well be the future, but that will still require employees to be in the office at least part-time.
Even though we don’t know exactly when offices will be up and running again, it’s a good idea to start planning your office return strategy. Here are seven great ways to rock your return to work.
Implement Health and Safety Measures
Many employees, especially those with compromised immune systems or other preexisting conditions, may be particularly nervous about returning to work.
To address these safety concerns, it’s important to put measures in place to reduce the spread of infection. OSHA’s return-to-work manual can help employers plan for a safe reopening. The guidelines suggest that employers:
- Be willing to adjust plans based on current local outbreak levels
- Provide hand-washing supplies to all employees and guests and encourage frequent and proper hand-washing
- Provide hand sanitizer for employees and guests
- Enhance the office’s cleaning and disinfecting policies for high-traffic spaces
- Monitor business occupancy to accommodate proper social distancing
- Require employees to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms and provide equipment like thermometers when necessary
- Establish a protocol for managing and tracking sick employees, including notifying employees who may have been exposed as soon as possible
Follow CDC guidelines when an exposed or formerly ill employee returns to work.
Reconsider Sick Policies
Before bringing employees back into the office, companies should consider adjusting their sick leave policies to allow employees to regain their health faster and avoid situations in which employees can get sick at work in the first place.
The average employee in the US gets 7 sick days a year. A COVID-positive employee could use those 7 days up fast. Businesses should consider offering employees more sick days or even offering sick days specifically for use in case of a COVID infection.
Hybrid employees could also be given flexibility in their telework schedules. This would be an excellent option for employees who have been exposed but aren’t yet showing symptoms. Allowing them to work from home in such events will reduce the spread of COVID in the office.
Office hoteling is the concept of having unassigned workspaces that employees can reserve when they’re in the office, rather than each employee having their own desk or cubicle.
This concept has benefits for both the company and the employee. Businesses can choose locations with a smaller footprint by reducing the number of workspaces. This also gives them flexibility on location. On the other hand, employees can choose whichever workstation is best for them when they’re in the office.
Office hoteling creates flexibility in the office space. Just be sure to implement appropriate sanitization protocols for the workspaces between uses.
Offer Noise Reduction
For many remote employees, returning to the office may be overwhelming. The home office doesn’t usually have constantly-ringing desk phones or colleagues’ voices contributing to a rather distracting ambiance. One study from 2013 showed that a lack of sound privacy was the number one frustration for office employees.
To help quiet the office and promote focus, companies can try options like:
- Having dedicated quiet and loud workspaces
- Feeding in white or brown noise
- Using soundproofing materials for sound masking
Bring the Outside Inside
Adding greenery to the office space is a fantastic way to boost employee morale. One 2014 study found that adding plants to the work environment increased productivity by 15%. Adding indoor plants may also help lower stress.
Methods for adding greenery into an office space may be as simple as adding more plants here and there. But it can also include setting up a vibrant outdoor space. As a bonus, plants help reduce noise pollution indoors.
Update Seating and Offer Standing Options
Doctors have long claimed that sitting for long periods is bad for our health. Jobs that require an employee to sit at their desk for most of the day can lead to health issues such as increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and unhealthy cholesterol levels.
Remote employees can customize their desk chairs or even avoid sitting altogether. Many may take short walking breaks to relieve stiffness during the day. Businesses should consider incorporating some of these options into their return-to-work strategies for in-office employees.
Ensure Effective Communication
Regardless of the changes or preparations made for a return to the office, communicating openly and effectively with employees is the most important factor. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page.
A few tips for communicating with employees include:
- Talking the plan through with your employees before telling the public
- Ensuring customers and clients are aware of the new changes
- Explaining how the changes will make the office a safe and healthy space for employees
- Asking for employee feedback on the back-to-work plans
- Being flexible with the new changes
A Safe and Smooth Transition for All
Some of your employees will be happy to go back to the office. Others may be reluctant. By incorporating the strategies above, you can help make the transition smooth for everyone.
AVNation will be heading to the Modern Work Summit this September. Click here for more information. We might see you there.