As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the workplace has seen some major shifts and challenges. Millions of workers have either been laid off or are now working remotely as offices empty and other organizations cease operations amid the global pandemic.
In a matter of weeks, business leaders and workers alike have had to adapt to this new normal, regardless of whether or not they were prepared for change on a massive scale. They have had to navigate the ins and outs of leading a remote team and trying to implement business-as-usual initiatives on a virtual basis.
With employees working from home for a little over one month now, many are beginning to look ahead, wondering what the future of the workplace will look like, post-COVID-19. Many leaders are even asking, “What can I do now to ease the transition back to work after COVID-19?”
Every business has its own unique needs, and there’s no sole answer to reopening business after COVID-19. With that in mind, here are a few ways to prepare your company’s gradual return to the workplace post-COVID-19.
1. Maintain social distancing policies as a best practice
It may be time to say goodbye to the open office concept. While these open spaces may promote collaboration, productivity, and increased employee engagement, they may also promote a quick spread of germs.
Before you begin phasing employees back into the office, you should start optimizing your office’s layout to accommodate safe social distancing practices. While you may not be able to give your office a complete makeover, you may want to consider moving a few desks around and providing each employee with ample personal space.
2. Phase employees back to the workplace after COVID-19
As you plan a strategy for reopening business after COVID-19, you may want to consider implementing a phased reentry based on roles rather than having all employees return at once. This can be especially beneficial if you find yourself with limited seating as you will be implementing social distancing in the office.
Planning a phased model may be challenging if your organization has hundreds or even thousands of seats to fill. However, color coding your floor plan can help you better plan a phase model while visualizing what your office will look like with social distancing measures in place.
3. Identify critical teams who first need to go back to the office after COVID-19
To begin phasing employees back into the workplace, you must first identify those in roles that are critical to performing your physical business’ operations. Think about employees who are in roles that cannot be completed remotely, whether the job’s nature does not permit it or there are security concerns with their job being done offsite. Whatever the reason may be based on the importance of their roles, these employees will essentially have to return to work first.
Once you’ve identified essential employees, you’ll need to keep in mind that the rest of your team won’t be back to work so soon after. The timing between each group phasing back to work depends on your company’s needs and, of course, the health of your employees. If you’re having trouble identifying which employees should be phased in first, consider these factors: age, health condition, and living situation. This will help you keep your employees’ health and well-being at the forefront while narrowing down your list of essential workers based on vulnerability criteria.
4. Repurpose your office’s flexible spaces
If you find yourself lacking the space to fully meet social distancing regulations while keeping your original capacity, think about repurposing the use of your other office areas. Take conference and focus rooms, for example. Make the most of these spaces by assigning the desks and seats for employees’ use while giving them enough room to move around and maintain social distancing.
5. Reconsider first-come-first-served seating plans
These types of seating plans may become an issue in the post-COVID-19 workplace since they do not ensure that an employee’s desk area will not be used by someone else. Concerns of cross-contamination and the spread of germs are likely to arise. To avoid this, you may want to stick to assigned seating arrangements for a set period. If your office lacks the space for assigned seating, you should ensure that the desks are consistently and properly sanitized.
6. Keep track of where employees sit
To make sure that your arranged seating plan is effective, you should keep track of where everyone sits. This will promote transparency and clarity among your team as everyone will be in-the-know regarding post-COVID-19 work arrangements and changes. Keeping track of the desks, break rooms, and restrooms in use will also help you arrange cleaning procedures by prioritizing high-traffic areas that will need a little extra sanitation. It will also help in tracing contact areas and disinfecting them in case an employee shows symptoms.
7. Consider shifting schedules for each group of employees
Shifting schedules can help you operate better and maximize the use of office spaces in different periods. You do not have to cut your workforce in half. You will just have to assign them to different shifts in those spaces. Ensuring that your team uses the workplace on set shift schedules will also allow you to plan your office’s cleaning schedule easily. By knowing when the office is empty, you can determine when is the best time to bring a cleaning crew in. Assigning shifts will also prevent too many people from coming into the office at once.
8. Designate isolation rooms around the office
To ensure the health and well-being of all of your employees, consider designating isolation rooms in the office. If an employee begins exhibiting symptoms at work, they will be able to move into an isolation room for the time being. This will help in preventing the spread of germs or illness. Remember to clean these rooms thoroughly after each use.
9. Plan for consistent and extensive cleaning regimens
With cleanliness and sanitation on the minds of all employees returning to work after COVID-19, you’ll want to ease their worries by ensuring that the office is being thoroughly and regularly cleaned and sanitized. Be sure to enforce and follow strict cleaning regimens to support both clients and employees.
10. Screen everyone before entering the office
To stop the spread while keeping the safety and well-being of your team in mind, screen individuals before they report to the office each day. To screen them effectively, ask questions related to travel and health symptoms. The results will help you decide who should enter the workplace and who should remain home.
The well-being of our clients and candidates is of utmost importance at Infinity Consulting Solutions (ICS). We believe that every organization should be well-equipped with the tools needed to plan for the safety of teams during these uncertain times. Knowing that we’re here for you, please feel free to contact us with any hiring needs or general support your business may have at this time.