Planning for the Chaos…
With COVID-19 forcing businesses to shift dramatically to full-on remote workforces this past year, some companies have embraced zoom calls and bedroom workstations as their new way of life. But for many business models, a socially distanced staff simply won’t be sustainable long-term. If you need to send your team back into the office sooner rather than later, here are some helpful ideas to make sure the switch goes over well in the workplace.
Assess how things have changed
Even though this might feel like a “going back” moment, the truth is that the past year has revolutionized the way we look at remote working. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated in April 2020, “we’ve seen two years of digital transformation in two months.”
Before the pandemic, remote work was seen as a luxury option, only viable for particular situations. A bustling office in a dense urban area was the ultimate symbol of success. But now that the effectiveness of videoconferencing and digital collaboration platforms have been proven and a pandemic has made social distance the norm, your employees’ expectations and concerns will be quite different.
With this drastic shift in mindset happening at all levels of your organization, merely returning to the “way things were” won’t be an option. Employees will balk at returning to the office if every aspect of the transition hasn’t been carefully thought through and reassessed.
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Create a Structured Plan
Immediately upon being asked to return to the office, employees will be looking to leadership to provide a solid plan that answers three key questions:
1. Is it necessary? Whether they admit it or not, many employees will have safety concerns or simply want to keep working from home. Therefore, they will need to be assured that they’re being called back to the office for concrete reasons. An excellent way to address these concerns is by assigning different working statuses for each role that have been carefully defined by assessing productivity, commute, office space, etc. Examples might be:
- On-Site: Employee’s position requires them to be in the office
- On-Site with Exception: Employee’s position can be done remotely when deemed necessary
- Hybrid Remote: Employee will work remotely or on-site based on the circumstances at hand
- Fully Remote: Employee works remotely full-time
2. Is it safe? The most obvious question during a global pandemic, employees will need to feel that their health is being protected. This will mean addressing concerns about:
- Spacing and overcrowding in offices, meeting rooms, elevators, etc.
- Break or lunchroom activity and sanitation
- Staggered work schedules
- Personal hygiene rules
- Rules surrounding sick days
3. What are the benefits? Even once you’ve assured both the necessity and safety of your employee’s return, it’s important to stress to your staff how resuming in-person work will benefit individuals as well as the company as a whole. Your employees have seen what your company can do without a central office space; now, what will having one back in the mix add? Popping by someone’s office instead of setting up a call can be more convenient for small interactions. And how about those little lost side moments of mentorship when training new employees? Does your office space help in defining the culture of your company? Highlight how your workspace will help your employees do their jobs better, and they’ll be more excited to get back to their desks.
Organize your Tech
With a plan in hand, it’s also time to consider what the shift back to the office will change for your employees’ tech wise. Were there outstanding infrastructure projects that still need to be finished up? Employees with a hybrid designation will need to be outfitted with equipment that allows them to come and go without compromising security. If there was ever a moment to do a network assessment, reassess your equipment setup, and generally clean up loose ends – before the messy back-to-the-office transition begins is the time.
Regardless of the plan you come up with, you will need to proceed with a healthy dose of empathy and respect for your employee’s comments and concerns. If someone is hesitant to return because of caregiving issues or underlying health conditions, consider obliging them. Encourage employees to call in sick with even mild symptoms. If you cannot accommodate these requests, make sure there are open communication lines so the reasons are clear, and every employee understands why each decision has been made.
If you need help sorting through the chaos of transition employees back to the office, consider contacting an MSP like Logic Speak. Our experts are currently helping several companies like yours safely and strategically return to the office.