Updated: May 4
Now that vaccines are being administered and many organizational leaders are developing strategic plans to phase employees back into the office, it's important to consider several important factors when attempting to return to "normal" business operations.
Though the Covid related death rate has dropped about 17% as of recently, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were approximately 49,409 new Covid cases in the US as of April 11, 2021. Though there have been over 190 million vaccines administered, and numbers seem to be declining, there is still great apprehension from employees to reenter the office and be around many people each day. Amidst the pandemic, most people started panicking and wondering if a cure was even feasible or not. Though there are now 3 different vaccinations available, if we are honest, many employees are also not ready to be vaccinated just yet because of their own personal preferences.
Keeping this in mind, it's important to note that we know businesses and various establishments of all kinds have started to reopen and relax mask requirements; however, considering the unimaginable impacts that the virus has had on all of us as individuals, it won't be as easy to make life seem as simple as it did before.
Re-entering the Office
Taking the workplace into account, we know that some individuals have suffered tremendously. Statistically, the average American didn't have enough savings to fund themselves and have had to work even amidst the pandemic and there were many who became unemployed involuntarily. Even now, some employees have had to make difficult decisions to return to the workplace to support themselves and their families. Now that many employers are considering phasing employees back on-site full-time over the next couple of months, it is still important to note that preventative safety measures should still be implemented and enforced to keep sites from closing due to uncontrolled Covid related outbreaks. We suggest that organizations consider they follow certain rules and regulations initially.
Certain precautions include:
Consider NOT bringing everyone back at once. Depending on your organization's size and the traditional working model, it's best to phase employees back in on a strategic rotation before having 100% staff back in the building.
Require employees to wear a mask in common areas (restrooms, conference rooms, hallways, lobby, breakrooms, etc.)
Ensure employee workstations are at least 6 feet apart or that you've provided plastic shields between workspaces to mitigate the risk of spreading Covid.
Install and utilize touchless hand sanitizer stations with a minimum of 60% percent alcohol.
Discourage all handshakes or physical peer-to-peer contact.
Sanitize all shared spaces each hour and provide disinfectant wipes, requiring employees to wipe down the area before departure.
Institute a policy that states if employees have Covid related symptoms, returning to work is prohibited until a negative Covid result has been provided.
How to Re-engage the Workforce?
Once the pandemic is over and employees are back in the office, engaging the workforce and encouraging them to adapt back to the traditional model of working will be more important than ever. For this, managers, team leads, and executives must create strategic ways to get their workforce back in working order. It won't be easy, that's for sure; however, it's not impossible. Though businesses and workplaces are bound to go back to "normal" operations, it won't happen instantaneously. Just as we have spent a year and a half getting used to remote-working, the same concept should be applied in terms of moving back to working traditionally. This is especially true if you've done any forms of remote hiring during the pandemic. It will take teams time to readjust and also familiarize (or refamiliarize) themselves with their peers and supervisors. The same is true for managers and leaders who have subordinates.
To re-engage the workforce, a useful measure to take is cultivating your teams with team-building activities and facilitate series of training to help the transition go more smoothly. Our number one suggestion for training would be to have behavioral assessments conducted (DISC is a great one) for your teams and have a training workshop session to help them understand how the individuals are on the team and how to best communicate and work in tandem with one another. This will help create synergy among the team and mitigate conflict and friction on the team.
On-Site Work or Hybrid Between Remote and On-Site Work?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, businesses have struggled to decide whether to retain the on-site working environment or to adopt a remote-working structure. Though most organizations pivoted to a remote environment, currently, companies aren't able to commit to fully return to on-site work mostly due to the risk of spreading Covid-19. With his in mind, we want to point out a few other factors to consider from an HR perspective. Some education systems still have hybrid options for students. Some parents may have children who are still 100% remote learning or rotating between remote learning and being on-site. Moreover, more than 9 million Americans are still unemployed, leaving some families with small children at home due to the inability to cover childcare expenses.
Remote-working has proven to be an exemplary decision for all sorts of businesses, regardless of it being compulsory or not. While remote work has its advantages, there's one major problem to consider. Remote-working doesn't cater greatly to the well-being of workers. Working on a laptop all day has its toll on an individual's mental health and physical well-being, especially when you're unable to separate work life and home. It impedes a healthy work-life balance. In addition, certain tasks just aren't accomplishable via remote working. The pandemic has also displayed that complete on-site work isn't that practical either. Since most tasks can easily take place via the internet or through working online, in general, this indicates that a better mode of working must exist to increase the level of productivity within the workplace.
We believe the answer to the common question, "On-Site Work or a Hybrid Between Remote and On-Site Work," the answer to that is quite simple. Considering the importance of both the modes of working, a mixture of the two is an optimal solution to end the problems of accessing the workplace, once and for all. Such a system may also be deemed crucial in eradicating the shortcomings of both modes of working. Also, since neither working online nor working from home will be made compulsory in the post-pandemic world, it will be completely up to the worker to decide how they want to work and what works best for their family.
By giving the workers a choice between the two, the workers will be more inclined towards their work, leading to much higher productivity than ever before. You'll also gain the endorsement of your workforce by being accommodating and thinking about each of their unique circumstances.