What Employers Need to Know About Returning to the Workplace in a Post-Pandemic World
It’s not just you. We are all wondering the same thing:
How and when will we return to the office safely following months of working from home in response to COVID-19? What will operations look like in a post-pandemic world?
The true impact of the COVID-19 spread has been physically, mentally and financially challenging for many individuals, altering day-to-day life in unprecedented ways. As we head into an era with waves of restrictions due to CDC guidelines, both employers and employees will need to play an active role in promoting a safe and healthful environment.
According to a recent article by Forbes, over 16 million US workers have transitioned to working from home. If you are planning to return to the office in the near future, we are here to help. Here are our top 4 secrets to a successful return to the workplace:
1. Create a Communications Plan
This may seem obvious, but developing a strong communications plan lays the foundation for returning to the workplace. It helps set expectations and answers concerns that may arise from employees: How do I know I’m safe? Can I put my family at risk by going into the office? What about our vendors?
In this day and age, communication is a bit more complex. If you simply send out a mass memo with generic information, it won’t work. However, if you develop a thorough strategy of communication messages and channels prior to returning, this will set your team up for success. Here are some key considerations when putting together a communications plan:
- What is the current situation of your business?
- What do you want to accomplish?
- Who do you need to communicate with?
- What are the key messages?
- How and when will you communicate?
- How will you measure your progress?
2. Establish Leadership Steps
Employees look to leaders for stability, safety and clarity in uncertain times. In fact, according to the LinkedIn course, Leading in Uncertain Times, “a well-managed breakdown can be just what’s needed for a breakthrough.” Therefore, it is our responsibility as leaders to navigate our teams through environmental challenges and if done correctly, your team will come out on the other side of this world pandemic stronger and more resilient. Here are some recommended steps when preparing a response plan:
- Assess critical functions and determine what will need to change
- Identify supply chains for critical supplies and materials
- Assess job functions and minimize workers on-site
- Evaluate where workers might be exposed
- Prepare physical spaces and health routines
- Identify computing resources (hardware, laptops, security, fire sharing)
- Develop, or enhance, written policies and practices
- Establish employee communications and training
3. Assess IT and Infrastructure
The past few months, technology has been at the forefront of remote work practices. When it is time to return back to the workplace, it is critical to have current information on all of your physical and digital IT assets. Before going back to the office, ensure you are up to date on the following technology so that the transition is seamless:
- Cloud readiness and impacts
- Security – Identity and Access Management, SSO, virus scans, and firewalls
- Contingent workforce preparations, security, access, and policies
- Network, VPN, Virtual Desktop – bandwidth and capacity planning
- Team collaboration software (video, audio, chat, file share)
- Data management and data security policies for WFH
- IT Help Desk – capacity planning, coverage, and shifts
4. Anticipate Future Precautions
Lastly, as the virus continues to evolve, it is possible for additional measures to be put place in response. In these situations, flexibility and communication are key. If your company does in fact need to switch back to remote work due to new state regulations, here is the good news: you can use this opportunity to rethink certain aspects from the first time around. Here are a few best practices:
- Develop your plan based on most recent experiences
- Clearly articulate job families and plans for remote work
- Define leaders and responsibilities
- Activate your communications plan
- Conduct a proactive IT assessment to plug any gaps from your most recent experience
- Be transparent with employees, provide resources, and solicit feedback
A safe and successful return to the workplace requires holistically planning across all dimensions.
For more information, check out Entech’s webinar: “Restart, Re-engage, Recalibrate.”