Although there is no clear roadmap for employees to return to the office amid the pandemic and with the current spike in COVID-19 cases, business leaders are contemplating a return to the office and are facing various difficulties due to to the persistent threat of the virus.
Organizations of all sizes and industries have work to do before returning to normality in the office. The following questions should be asked: Do your employees trust that the work environment will be safe? Will all aspects of your well-being be prioritized? What security measures will be applied? Every business should answer these questions honestly and then communicate the answers clearly to employees.
5 Challenges Faced by Organizations When Going Back to the Office and How to Deal with Them
1) Manage Access to the Workplace and Limit Exposure
How will companies manage risk when it comes to getting back to normal in the office? This is a question that some are addressing with a more detailed registration process, such as asking employees to report recent travel, COVID-19 results, symptoms, or exposure to anyone who has been ill.
A digitized system that allows employees to self-report symptoms and potential exposure offers organizations a better chance to avoid risk and provide confidentiality. Companies can proactively recommend appropriate actions, such as staying home and telecommuting. Therefore, the adoption of long-term safety measures is what is needed to keep the workplace safe in the medium term.
2) Maintain Employee Confidentiality
When it comes to health checks and medical records, employees are entitled to a degree of privacy that this crisis puts to the test. All medical information on a particular employee, including the results of daily temperature checks, should be stored in a file separate from the employee’s personal file to maintain privacy. If an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, all potentially exposed team members should be informed and instructed to stay home for 14 days without revealing the identity of the infected person.
3) Implement Labor Flexibility
Life is anything but predictable right now, and companies must prioritize flexibility as they begin to bring employees back to the office. As such, organizations will likely need to adopt a phased approach when employees return to work and must consider the needs of each individual when determining appropriate accommodations.
Commuting to the office is the best place to start. Employees using public transportation face the greatest risk due to the overcrowding of buses and trains at peak times. As a solution, companies can take “shifts” to the office to offer people the flexibility to travel by public transport during off-peak hours.
Likewise, remote work, which is still recommended by government authorities, can continue to work by providing them with the necessary tools that employees are used to after so many months.
4) Maintain Clear and Consistent Communication
With new information available every day about COVID-19, it is important to communicate regularly with employees about the steps that are being taken to keep them safe. Regular email updates (newsletters) with the latest news and any policy changes are essential.
Helping workers stay informed and establishing a dialogue with management can also go a long way toward building trust. Surveys are great for this, but they are limited to capturing employee sentiment at a precise moment. To do this, the same dynamic communication tools that keep people connected while working from home can help them stay in touch when they return to the office.
Also, a designated channel on a collaborative platform that is only for COVID-19 related updates can encourage employees to share resources. Here again, employees can appreciate anonymity when it comes to talking about their personal situation.
5) Maintain a Vibrant Work Culture
Most companies focus on the most immediate obstacles to reopening, such as ensuring the health and safety of their employees, but trying to figure out how to keep your spirits up while the office fills up is also challenging.
Above all, companies must empathize with employees to avoid their anxiety and fears about what going back to work means for them and their families. Emphasizing security, privacy and transparency before the turnaround can help establish the trust that any organization will need to move horizontally.