Best Practices for Ensuring a Safe Return to Work (if you absolutely have to)

My first question is this: Do you need your people back in the office? Or is it what you are used to? Before you try to bring people back, think about WHY you want them there and if it’s possible to create a new normal for your company. Perhaps the typical 9-5 office life is a thing of the past, maybe it’s time to chart a new path.

If you have considered that and still feel it’s important to return to the office, read on!

As restrictions across the nation are starting to ease up, companies are considering how to ensure their employees’ safe return to work. There is little doubt that employees will be returning to an office that is very different from the one they left behind. Not only has everyone become accustomed to working from home, but we have become acutely aware of how easily a virus can spread, making us much more cautious with how we interact with others. In this article, we will provide you insights into what returning to work entails and offer some best practices for a safe return to the office.

Before you can consider returning your employees to the office, management should familiarize themselves with the guidelines put out by the CDC to ensure that all workers are kept safe. Depending on your business, these guidelines will also help you determine whether it is too soon for your employees to return to the office.

Continue Social Distancing

As one can expect, adjustments will need to be made to ensure that workers health is top-of mind. Social distancing is still an important recommendation from the CDC, and therefore you may need to re-evaluate your office space. Many offices are open to spark collaboration and creativity, but they will need to be reconsidered, as employees should not sit too closely. Employees should be assured personal space with at least six feet between them and their closest colleagues. Additionally, all areas should have disinfectants readily available and employees should be encouraged to regularly wipe down their work surfaces, including their desk, mouse, and keyboard. Hand sanitizer should also be provided in high traffic areas such as meeting rooms, kitchen, and bathrooms.

Implement Staggered Schedules

If you are operating out of an open office, you may consider implementing a staggered work schedule, where only parts of the workforce come in at a time. Not only will this ease the stress that employees may feel returning to work, but it will also reduce the number of employees in the office at a time, improving employee safety. Depending on the size of various teams and your office layout, you may choose to have the full team returning on certain days, while others work from home on those days. Not only will this improve safety, but it will also ease the transition between working from home to returning to the office.

Encourage Empathy

While the office will need to be reconsidered to ensure employee health, the importance of the mental health of your employees should also not be understated. People may have been directly affected by the virus, while others may still be worried about family members. Even if employees have not been sick, they have still experienced multiple months of being cooped up at home which also takes its toll. Some workers may be prepared and excited to return to the office, but others may still be apprehensive or even scared to return. Be empathetic with your team and encourage their suggestions about how to ensure that they feel safe returning to work.

Before urging employees to return to work, evaluate how things have been going as employees have worked from home. Have they maintained the productivity levels they had before? If they have, consider allowing employees to continue working from home indefinitely. Many employees would be thrilled with the opportunity to work from home just a couple of days a week, splitting the time between the home and the office, which will also make for a smoother return to the office.

How is your organization preparing to return to the office? Have you already implemented guidelines for how you will welcome back your employees? Let us know in the comments! 

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