Planning for a return to the office

With many businesses operating well remotely, the office seems like a distant memory. But the lockdown will end. Have you started planning how your business will navigate the long-awaited return to the office? We have written before about the benefits of preparation when managing change, so get ahead in your planning with these top tips…

Communication is Key

Effective communication is paramount in ensuring the return to the workplace runs smoothly. Understandably, staff will be nervous about heading back to life as normal, so make sure you are transparent in your expectations and demonstrate your preparation by keeping them involved in change management plans wherever possible. Most importantly, ensure you listen to any fears and concerns they may be raising.

Evaluate your Policies on:

  • Remote Working
  • Flexible Working and Shift Work
  • Employee Travel
  • Visitors
  • Sickness and Absence

Leeway will need to be given in the instance that somebody needs to work from home or take time off if they or a member of their household is displaying symptoms, is unwell or has other care responsibilities, such as children or highly vulnerable dependents. Can employees still work from home should they need to? Make sure you show that the health and wellbeing of staff is your top priority and lay out the rules transparently.

Social Distancing

Is it imperative that all employees be back in the office full time? Can any staff members benefit from continued remote working? It is still vital that social distancing is practised when back-to-work phasing takes place. Consider staggering start and finish times for workers to decrease foot traffic and the amount of people in the office at any one time. You could also introduce a one-way system, where possible, for getting around the building.

We should be 2 metres apart at all times – does your current office layout adhere to those guidelines? Move desks and chairs so they are a safe distance apart and reduce the capacity of shared spaces such as conference rooms and breakout areas. If your office is too small to enforce these rules properly, you may wish to consider allowing a more flexible work environment.

Cleanliness and Hygiene

Maintain enhanced cleaning practices and ensure all work areas are sanitised before and after every use. It would be prudent to supply sanitising cleaning products to each employee, and ensure they take responsibility for their personal work areas. If you don’t already have one, adopt a clear desk policy and remove shared tools such as stationery.

There is a lot to consider when looking to return to the office, and it isn’t an easy process. With proper planning, you’ll be able to ensure the process is smooth and simple.