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5 tips for returning to the office after COVID-19 pandemic

Work-from-home was the solution for many companies to continue their work even in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, returning to the office, even partially, is necessary and very likely in many companies. The biggest challenge in returning to the office is to assure employees that they are protected and that they work in a safe environment. There are also a long series of challenges specific to each company in terms of pace, structure, location, the extent to which all employees or only part of them return and, obviously, compliance with legal recommendations. All this must be managed through an extensive and detailed plan.

The success in creating a plan to return to the office, which will give confidence to everyone, is the analysis of all the suggestions received from both management staff and executive employees. To design a plan, you need regular, even daily meetings with executive employees and managers to establish the rules to follow.

Here are 5 helpful ideas for an easier transition from home to headquarters:

  1. Manage employee`s number

A large number of employees which will return to work, in the same space, creates an environment conducive to the spread of viruses. It is, therefore, very important to carefully manage their number in direct relation to the available space and the degree of occupancy to guarantee safety.

Plan a staggered return to the office. Establish a system so that a limited number of employees work from the office, by rotation, every few days. Create these groups, both to ensure role coverage and to support employee distancing.

Allowing all employees at the headquarters on the same day presents a major risk and should be avoided.

  1. Maintain remote working

Even if the workspace is available, it is recommended to contunue remote work system for at least a few months after the partial return to headquarters, both for financial and practical reasons. The threat of COVID-19 continues, and the evolution of the number of cases can always lead to new isolation measures, therefore, we must be cautious in this regard. Returning to headquarters and then returning to the remote system can be a disruptive factor for employee performance and thus for the company.

Organizations that decide to return to headquarters must be prepared for the moment when an infection could occur inside the company, which could determine the return to work from home system.

A very important factor is the constant communication with the company’s employees in order to remind them of the general rules of prevention, but also to understand their worries, fears and always look for solutions to manage them.

  1. Rearrange the workspace

Organizations must be proactive in redesigning the workspace in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Of course, the redevelopment will be done following  the current prevention measures, such as the minimum social distance between the desks, wearing the mask inside, etc.

It is recommended to leave a free space between each agent’s workstation. Also, another important factor would be for each agent to have their own desk where to work, as well as their own technical equipment (headphones, keyboard, etc.).

After each use, at the end of the work schedule, the desk, chair and technical equipment must be disinfected. Each workspace must be equipped with special disinfection products, such as wet wipes, surface sanitizer, hand sanitizer, etc.

Also, the workspace should be disinfected and cleaned every few hours by specialized personnel.

All these operations should be integrated as naturally as possible in the daily activity, so that they are easy to adopt by everyone and at the same time not to become an additional stress factor. Fortunately, in the months since the outbreak of the pandemic, such habits have begun to enter everyone’s routine, which will help acceptance in the workspace too.

  1. Motivate and rebuild employee morale

In addition to the practical aspects, we must pay more attention to the human component. After months of working from home, returning to the office can be overwhelming for many employees.

The success of a company is based on motivated employees, one of the priorities of the management team. Understanding employees’ concerns about the new way of operation and constant and open discussions, both in teams and in individual sessions, is a beneficial practice.

To ensure an overall positive state for both employees and the organizational culture, it is necessary to communicate effectively, promote employee achievements and outline a positive outlook on the future. Internal competitions, information campaigns and internal promotion actions can lead to a greater involvement on their part and to the increase of the notoriety of the organizational culture.

  1. Communication – the path to normality

Communication suffered during the pandemic and organizations and employees had to comply, overnight, with the new style of communicating online through digital platforms. However, for some organizations or departments this change was beneficial because they communicated even more than they normally did when they were at headquarters.

The progress made in communication during work-from-home, must be maintained at the same level as before. It is easy for a change of environment to cause a disturbance of focus and performance but keeping the lines of communication open helps  overcome this challenge.

To find out how employees feel about returning to the office and the new way of communicating, surveys are recommended because they may reveal certain aspects that you may not have thought about.

Communication on the basic rules against the spread of the virus must be constant. Whether posters are placed in the office, in the kitchen or in the bathroom, or information is sent periodically by email, these rules must be constantly reminded in order to create a more secure environment.

More than anything, this new change must be approached with confidence. We have all already undergone a radical transformation of the way we work, with the entry into the lockdown, and we have successfully adapted to a context that many of us would have considered impossible a few months before. Therefore, we will certainly succeed now too. We hope that the few ideas we shared above will make the adaptation even easier.