As Aotearoa settles into COVID-19 Alert Level 2, the prospect of heading back to the office is a welcome one for many. However, for employers, striking the balance between business continuity and employee safety can be a difficult feat in a working environment that has changed significantly as a result of the pandemic.
To help you manage the reintroduction to office life, here are the key things to think about when getting your business ready to return to work.
Involving Your Team
Good communication is essential for building trust and managing misinformation during the transition back to the office and beyond. It’s natural for employees to be worried about the risk of infection in the workplace, so make an effort to be sensitive to their concerns, describe the measures taken and explain the support that’s available to them, in addition to communicating important company updates and changes.
Don’t forget that communication is two-way, so it’s essential to provide opportunities to respond, ask questions and provide feedback. Platforms such as Wrike, Slack and MS Teams are great places to create forums for informal discussion, and using online tools like SurveyMonkey to conduct employee surveys can help you gauge morale.
Developing a plan
To ensure your business can continue to operate safely, you need to consider the following questions and work with your employees to develop a plan:
Once you have covered all your bases and have a solid plan in place, make sure it is conveyed to everyone in the business and provide opportunities for them to ask any questions they may have.
Adapting the Workspace
Working in close quarters increases the risk of being exposed to COVID-19, so when returning to the office, it’s important to adapt the work environment to accommodate physical distancing, minimise the sharing of facilities and limit the number of people each individual comes into contact with.
Rethink the office layout
Reconfigure the existing floor plan to reduce density and minimise the risk of transmission in each area:
- Work areas – Determine the maximum capacity of the space and increase the distance between workstations. To help people follow the guidelines, be sure to remove excess seating wherever possible and consider assigning desks in order to track where everyone sits.
- Meeting rooms – Limit the number of people attending in-person meetings and training by encouraging team members to continue using tools such as Zoom or MS Teams in addition to/in place of face-to-face sessions.
- Shared spaces – Where possible, divide people into smaller groups with access to their own bathrooms, meal areas and breakrooms. Adjust the spacing of furniture in public areas, remove items such as pens and magazines, and add signage to help people keep apart.
Cleanliness and hygiene
Maintaining cleanliness is naturally going to be a major concern when you’re preparing to reopen the office, and there are many factors to consider when developing your hygiene procedures.
A good place to start is to schedule regular cleaning and sanitisation of all areas, centralise rubbish and recycling bins, place sanitiser stations throughout the offer and provide hands-free options for tasks such as opening doors and handwashing. You may also want to consider removing shared drinks and snacks from the kitchen and encouraging employees to keep their desks clear to make them easier to clean.
The measures you implement will depend on your office environment and the habits of your team, but a combination of the above will likely work best. The most important things to think about when developing your cleaning protocols are consistency and visibility, as these are vital for giving employees confidence that their safety is a priority.
At the end of the day, organisations have a responsibility to protect the health and wellbeing of their people, clients and visitors. By following our advice, you can ensure your business is in the best position to bounce back in Level 2 – without compromising safety.
For more advice on reopening your office after COVID-19 or help with finding the right talent for your business, speak to our team today.