With the vaccine rollouts taking place, there seems to be a lightness in the air. Now that we are all turning a new corner, organizations are beginning to navigate around the best ways to return their teams to the office. Leaders are working on taking mindful approaches in supporting all who plan to return to the office. Whether the plan is for your team to go back onsite full-time or adopt a hybrid model, today’s article is a resource you can use to shape your return to office plan.
5 Tips to Ensure a People-Centric Return-to-Work Approach
While the idea of office-based work may be good news for some, it can induce feelings of stress for others. A stat from Help Net Security shows that 85% of workers are excited about returning to the office. Though a large number, we must not forget about the 15% of those experiencing hesitancy.
To meet the needs of your whole organization, the key is to keep your people your number one priority and approach every aspect of your return to work policies with their well-being in mind. These are our top tips:
Appraise Worker Readiness
Getting your staff’s preferences is always a great way to start planning for a healthy return to office transition. What food do they like? What are they looking forward to? What’s their favourite snacks and coffee? These questions all demonstrate that you have your teams’ best interest at heart, which will go a long way toward gaining their trust throughout this process. It will also arm you with data needed to tailor your plan according to specific company needs.
Walk, Don’t Run
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Conduct your plan in bite-sized phases to allow workers to get used to the changes and provide enough breathing room to regularly assess progress and make adjustments. Consider the following:
- How many people could you realistically accommodate at your workplace while still adhering to public health guidance?
- Who absolutely needs to come back right away?
- Who can come back later or remain fully remote?
- How can you treat all workers fairly and equally throughout the process?
- What specific changes do the core functions of each team or process require to preserve harmony and productivity?
Prepare Return-to-Office Packages
Return-to-office kits are a great way to show workers your appreciation to have them back onsite and equip them with safety and other return-to-office essentials. Include relevant policy information, wellness guidelines and so on, but also brainstorm creative gift ideas. Think deeply about what each team or individual employee would find valuable and meaningful.
Revise Employee Benefits & Incentives
With a return to office plan comes a great opportunity for companies to revisit their benefits package to make sure it fits employees unique needs in a post covid world. Childcare benefits, flexible schedules and mental health support are great ways to make sure employees are equipped for success as part of the world’s return to normal. You may not be able to do all this at once (and that’s okay!); however, start by expanding at least one benefit to alleviate the most widespread concerns and go from there.
Provide Support for Mental & Emotional Health
We’ve talked extensively about mental health in recent weeks because global psychological wellness took a massive nose dive over the last year. As you roll out your work transition initiatives, it’s important to keep employees’ mental and emotional health top of mind. Reframe the narrative around these issues and ready a list of resources to circulate among those who need them.
Doing so might require an entire cultural shift in your organization but don’t get deterred by a seemingly large task. We can’t emphasize enough how small steps are better than none and showing that effort where employees can see it is progress well done.
Above all, remember that confusion weakens confidence. Establish employee trust by clearly communicating a detailed, precise plan and methodology for reopening.
Preparing Your Office Space: 4 Areas to Cover
Getting ready to reopen your worksite also requires a thorough review of your physical office space to implement safety policies and work needs and preferences. We’ve highlighted the following four areas to think about:
Health & Safety
Develop and refine your processes for maintaining physical safety, including:
- Ample supply of hand sanitizers, masks, gloves, and high-grade cleaning supplies
- Highly visible posters laying out workplace policies
- Policies that prevent high-volume building access
- Procedures to take if someone is sick
- Thorough employee health screening practices*
- Vaccination requirements and other considerations (e.g. proof of vaccination)*
*Note that laws regarding how you approach these may vary depending on your country, state, or province. For example, the regulations around mandating vaccinations in North America are still up in the air!
Technology & Office Design
Since COVID-19 has changed how your team works, we can now consider changing up the look, feel, and function of your workspaces and related technologies. Keep in mind:
- Floor plans and workstations that allow for simultaneous collaboration and physical distancing
- Low-touch or no-touch amenities like auto-flush toilets and sensor-activated coffee-makers, cabinets, dispensers etc.
- The need for permanently assigned desks versus hotspots (depending on whether your team will return fully or adopt a hybrid model)
- Air quality and filtration and other similar measures in elevators, halls, stairwells and other shared spaces
Consider not only practical use but also the kind of culture you want to enforce. To learn more, sign up for our Immersive Design Workshop, where industry design experts will highlight trends to watch out for in the post-pandemic world and how to prepare for them.
Also, we have a very insightful office design guide that you don’t want to miss!
Food & Beverages
The pandemic has also dictated new norms around food safety, so your office return plan needs to address that as well. Start by implementing:
- Appointed meal breaks to minimize volume in common eating areas
- Individually packaged servings of meals, snacks and drinks
- Office catering to reduce the number of people coming in out of the office
- Individually assigned cutlery (or eco-friendly disposable items)
- Touchless payment options for food purchases
Lastly, this entire endeavour will affect everything about your organization, with culture at the top of the list. Whether the pandemic strengthened or weakened your team dynamics over the last year, policies that proactively uplift collaboration are key for setting the right workplace tone as people transition back to the office.
Check out our collection of team-building activities to improve productivity, create effective communication, and above all, help your team members have fun with one another, both remotely and onsite.
Remember: You Can Always Ask for Help
There are loads of factors to consider about transitioning out of WFH models. While some have gotten used to (and maybe loving) remote work, it’s important to remember the blend of opinions and feelings when it comes to where we work in the future. Though it may feel like a daunting task, we’re here to help. Our new categories include resources to help you navigate every aspect of your company culture, now and beyond the pandemic. And you can always use our providers’ consulting services to tackle areas that require specific guidance.
Remember, it’s a great time and greater opportunity to check in with your employees, founders and company values and establish a solution that aims to make everyone feel comfortable!
Disclaimer: In addition to sourcing information from this guide (or any other you might read), the most important thing to keep in mind is any local, provincial, territorial, state-wide, and federal government-issued regulations and guidelines on the matter. Click to learn about Canadian guidelines and US guidelines.