As businesses strive for economic stability in the wake of the coronavirus, recent surveys conducted by CNBC reveal that most large corporations are planning to have over half of their workforce back on site in September. Major factors such as a potential vaccine (albeit vague, uncertain progress toward one) and a possible second wave of infections, however, have made the plan for transition an incredibly complex one.
Employers looking to make this gradual shift will need to keep health concerns top of mind while planning for needs surrounding office infrastructure, workplace communication, and working arrangements during this tumultuous time.
Here are five key steps toward a safe, productive return to the workplace.
Maintain remote work and social distancing
A survey conducted in late March revealed that 41% of employees are still afraid to return to the office due to risk of exposure. It is therefore important to maintain current remote work priorities and social distancing protocols.
Some offices are now rotating between groups of employees, alternating between a week (or a few days) at the office, and a week (or a few days) working from home. This keeps workers at a safe minimum in the office environment, preventing coronavirus transmission risk.
It’s also important to review your current physical setup in the workplace, and make any changes as necessary. Comply with social distancing regulations by setting seating arrangements six feet apart between employees, and encouraging such distance in shared spaces such as the break room.
Consider having health screenings in place
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently announced that the current pandemic constitutes a direct health threat to the workplace, allowing employers to implement health screens for returning workers. These include mandatory temperature checks, health questionnaires, and full COVID-19 tests.
Employers are also permitted to ask workers to take a COVID-19 test before returning to the workplace.
On top of ensuring all workers are healthy, it’s vital to keep your workplace sanitized and in good condition. Implement a thorough clean of the environment before reintroducing employees to the workplace, and consider provisions of sanitary supplies such as alcohol wipes, hand sanitizer dispensers, and wash stations.
Find ways of boosting morale
The worldwide disruption of COVID-19 has understandably led to high levels of stress, anxiety, and doubt among workers. To alleviate these feelings and effectively boost morale among employees re-entering the workplace, employers are recommended the following:
Improve access to and encourage use of wellness resources. Mental health is unsurprisingly fragile in these trying times, so providing your employees with all the related resources and support they need can help them keep their stress and anxiety levels in check. This can include encouraging them to use their available benefits, offering links to online sources on stress relief in the workplace, and hosting virtual exercise or mindfulness sessions.
Encourage virtual bonding. Those opting for a “rotation” arrangement in slowly returning employees to the workplace may find some dismayed at the prospect of not having close teammates or colleagues at work during the same days as them (or possibly not returning at all). Employers must therefore encourage and maintain regular virtual bonding and communication, restoring a sense of community and camaraderie among workers.
Take time to celebrate both large and small achievements. To keep spirits up, it’s important for employers to recognize and highlight successes when they occur, even among the smaller “wins.” This keeps workers inspired to carry on with their goals, knowing there are still opportunities and achievements to be had even during this time of crisis.
Consider communication and training procedures
Lastly, consider your methods of communicating your business continuity plans to employees. Workers will need to understand your process of returning to work and their responsibilities under this plan. Think about how you’ll be relaying this information, how questions or feedback regarding new work arrangements will be handled, and if regular health and safety meetings will be implemented.
You’ll also want to consider possible employee training, and if such sessions are required to outline obligations under sanitizing, social distancing, and any necessary protective equipment. Some managers may also require specific training to effectively administer your return-to-work plans.
Clear, frequent communication is key in transitioning employees back to the workplace. Our digital communication solutions at Intouch IT can ensure both you and your workers are well-equipped to navigate new workplace changes and arrangements. Contact us today to learn more.