Many employers & employees have adjusted to “the new way of life” when working from home. This has come with many challenges including:
Enabling IT structures to get people logged into company systems both securely and efficiently
Ensuring the home office is a safe and has adequate internet capabilities
Employees & employers adequately communicating and keeping a teamwork environment
Employees balancing work-life with family dynamics such as home schooling and finding a quiet place to perform their work duties
Of those employers I have spoken to many suggest there is a 50/50 mix of employees who have enjoyed and excelled working from home and those who have really struggled both emotionally and in continuing to be as efficient as they were previously. Just as individuals and companies have begun adjusting to the “new normal” a new challenge is ahead – returning to the workplace. This may be even more challenging. Below are some tips and guidance to a successful transition of staff back to the work place in an office environment:
Get the physical things in place. The risk of COVID-19 has not disappeared. Employers have a responsible to ensure staff have a safe work environment with adequate social distancing. This will not happen automatically. There are many published guidelines from government health authorities on minimum square metres required per employee but also consider:
Removing the number of chairs from meeting rooms and shared spaces
Putting physical markers using tape on tables and floors to remind people of their social distancing requirements
Putting controls and signage around how many people are allowed in each area (particularly meeting rooms, bathrooms & kitchen/dining areas)
Consider temperature checking devices for those occupying very high density sites
Provide plenty of hand sanitizer, tissues, waste disposal for personal hygiene matters, including plenty of signage
Don’t be in a hurry: To assist adequate social distancing, take pressure off the public transport system and assist staff transitioning back to work a deliberate and progressive approach may be the way to go. Consider splitting your teams and bringing them back progressively on alternate days or weeks for a period of time. Some businesses are also considering staggered start times to assist in relieving pressure on overcrowding public transport systems.
Check the State Government Advice: Restrictions and guidance to employers regarding return to work can change continually and is different for each state. Do your research checking the guidance readily available from state government websites and keep updated.
Communicate: Prior to returning staff to work hold a meeting by whatever media you are using (Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams etc.). Make sure all are aware of rules and new practices including what days and times expected to be at work. Many will be scared so be patient and understand the rights of employers/employees in compulsory return physically to work – again there are different state guidelines with different timeframes. It is wise to ensure employees do a self-health assessment before presenting to work and are reminded not to come in if they are sick.
Hopefully, the risk of COVID-19 reduces even further in the months ahead. In the meantime, keep safe and well.