As the world’s gears begin to turn again after months of stagnation, companies everywhere are starting to reopen their offices post-COVID. Government restrictions have eased, and organizations have started to transition workers back to the workplace.
However, some may be overlooking one essential adjustment:
Rethinking what going back to work will look like in a post-COVID world.
And, a lot of managers are seeking answers. So much so that MIT Technology Review recently released a report to give their take on the matter, noting that:
“The management problem is whether and how to reopen businesses, given that workplace spread of the virus remains a real threat. The management problem is caused by an information gap: we don’t know who has the virus (infectious), who had it (immune), and who has never had it (susceptible).”
So, let us share some key insights with you. Here are a few steps you can take to prepare for this “new normal” work environment and ensure a successful return to the workplace.
Focus on Office Space
Though it is impossible to provide a guarantee of safety for your employees, you can limit the impact significantly by ensuring that the workplace is prepared for a contactless overhaul.
Maintaining physical distancing measures is essential in the current unpredictable environment, however, employers must ensure that the appropriate tools and infrastructure are in place to facilitate the process.
Personal protective equipment, such as face masks, hand sanitizers, and disinfectants, must be easily accessible by all members of your teams. Consider redesigning your reception to accommodate for these new products, to set up a station that employees can use on their way in and out of the office.
Implementing more rigorous cleaning procedures is crucial. Try reducing touch-shared surfaces, creating distance between desks, and setting up multiple break areas. These measures can help reduce the risk of person-to-person transmission.
Above all, it is imperative that your staff is aware of (and abide by) these new measures. Make sure that you are communicating with your team about all the adjustments they need to make when returning to the office. Set up information pamphlets and posters around the workspace as constant reminders.
Focus on Personnel
It is important to keep your staff informed throughout the return-to-work process. Employers need to acknowledge new concerns and consider ways to ease anxieties, such as meeting colleagues face-to-face again after a long period of exclusively tele-communicating. Employers must account for these potential new challenges and be equipped to manage them.
For instance, consider our recent intensified dependency on technology. This is a development that should not be overlooked, as it can be dangerous. Remind your staff that the human aspect of going to the office, like interacting with colleagues, is not all gone.
Attempt to find a balance where you can continue to embrace technologies and ask how they can better the return-to-work process, while instilling a sense of physical community throughout the office.
As a final note, the MIT report noted that managers have to make decisions based on two factors: “information-based” and “always-on” solutions.
“You must decide how much information to collect about who is infectious and immune; how to collect that information and how often; and how to act on it, based on how much risk your organization is willing to bear.
You must also decide how your day-to-day processes should change to limit the spread of disease should an infected person arrive in your workplace, and consider how those changes will affect both safety and productivity. There is no point in bringing workers back to the office if always-on solutions prevent them from doing their jobs any better than they would at home,” the report said.
While navigating potential solutions, managers must calculate tradeoffs, understand the risks, and be willing to innovate as we all wait for a cure. So, it is time to step up managers, especially at the beginning stages of this transitory period. You will need to dedicate time to ensure all staff is well informed of changes and that they understand the importance of adhering to them.
If that means, putting a project temporarily on hold or pushing a meeting to a later time, so be it. The number one priority here is your team’s safety, and that should be on the top of every manager’s To Do list.
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