Returning to The Office After COVID-19; 5 Tips for a Successful Transition

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

A few months ago, the world as we knew it dramatically changed; companies were forced to work remotely; people were no longer allowed on the streets; and, physical interactions practically disappeared.

However, as restrictions imposed during COVID-19 are being eased, it seems imminent that many employees across the world will have to go back to “regular” work sooner than later.

It may be scary and frustrating to go back to work while COVID-19 is still spreading; But, as a company, there are several measures you can take to make the transition easier for your employees. Check out these 5 tips that will help you achieve a successful transition back to the office.

1. Keep the Workspace Safe

Keeping the workspace safe might seem obvious and needless to point out; after all, a working environment should always be safe. However, under this situation we must consider measures that we didn’t think about before.

  • Deep clean the entire office. Focus on disinfecting both common and individual areas. Even if no one has been in the office for months, a deep clean will get rid of bacteria and viruses that could be hiding; plus, it will give your employees more sense of safety.
  • Maintain a rigorous cleaning and disinfecting schedule. Increase the standards of daily cleaning at the office and make sure that working stations and common areas cleaned out daily.
  • Encourage employees to keep good hygiene. Give employees extra reminders about the importance of practicing good hygiene. Hang posters with information about proper handwashing, cough/sneeze etiquette, symptoms to watch out for, and so on.
  • Provide employees with basic supplies. Keep up products such as disinfectant wipes/spray, hand sanitizer, soap, tissues, and face masks. These supplies will help your employees to follow good hygiene practices.
  • Increase physical distance. Keeping a safe physical distance in the workplace is essential to reduce the risk of contagion.
  • Implement health checkpoints. Mandates temperature checks and travel information for every person before entering the office.

2.Manage Number of In-House Employees

Having everybody coming to work at the same time might not be the best idea, especially if you have a medium or big company. The higher the number, the higher the risk. Large volumes of people sharing the same space represent a huge risk for spreading viruses. 

Consider staging the reintroduction to the office. Create a rotating schedule for employees while making sure that all essential roles are being covered across different levels.

3. Keep Remote Work

Regardless of the ability to reopen workplaces, it might be wise to keep some remote work in place. Due to the nature of COVID-19, we cannot exactly predict whether or not we will get hit by another wave in the close future. A new wave could result in another lockdown, causing a disruptive environment between inhouse and remote work.

Having your employees coming to the office means that the risk of one (or more) of them getting the virus is high; particularly in places where the spreading of the virus still is out of control. If one employee gets sick, more employees will likely follow. In the end, it might cause the entire office to go back under lockdown, only this time it would be with sick employees unable to work.

Another important aspect to consider is the willingness of employees to go back to the office. On one hand, we have employees who discovered that they work and feel better surrounded by coworkers in the office. On the other hand, we have employees who already got used to the idea of having some extra sleep time instead of commuting to work; who enjoy being around their family; and who will just prefer to work remotely from now on.

If the nature of the work allows it, consider those employees who prefer remote work to keep doing so.

4. Boost Employees Morale and Encourage Safe Social Interaction

A successful company relies on happy and motivated employees. After weeks or even months of being outside of the office, returning will likely feel unsettling. Allow your employees to get readapted to the office world at their own pace. Acknowledge their concerns and feelings. And threat the spread of news, policy, and regulations with sensitivity.

When the time is right, spend some time with team-building activities to lift morale and bring your team close back together. Remember to keep an acceptable social distance while doing so.

5. Support Employees’ Mental Health

Despite how well your employees seemed to cope with the whole COVID-19 situation, the truth is self-isolation and quarantine may cause an increase in negative feelings such as fear, anger, sadness, guilt, and irritability. Without mentioning that the uncertainty lived during a pandemic may also increase levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Share mental health material with your employees and keep an eye on those who might be struggling. Set up a health support group where employees feel free and welcome to share their emotions and their stories.

If you haven’t yet, consider introducing mental health leave into your policies. The same way you wouldn’t want physically ill employees to come to the office, mentally unwell employees should also be able to stay home.

The most important things to consider at the time of going back to “normal” are to be flexible and to provide your employees with the right resources to readapt. Remember that a working space should be adapted to your employees and not the other way around.  

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