As we start to make our way back into the physical world, many of us might be anticipating a return to the office, or other workspace. However, it won’t be what was previously considered “normal.” If anything, adjusting to the new way workplaces operate might be more challenging than moving completely offsite. With new health and safety concerns and more questions than answers, here are a few tips for safely navigating the return to work.
Set an execution and contingency plan
Before you set a return date, you should have a basic plan of action in place. While this may seem like common sense, planning for any possible outcome is paramount to integration back into the physical workspace. Questions such as, “How many employees are allowed to work at one time?” or “What are the action items if an employee falls ill?” must be answered. Additionally, business owners and operators should ensure they are in compliance with any city and state guidelines. Post signage wherever possible and wherever needed – near access points, bathrooms and any other shared spaces.
Overall, business owners and managers should be communicating daily with employees and customers leading up to their re-entry to assess their level of comfort. What one employee or customer might be comfortable with isn’t necessarily true for another.
Assess physical safety risks
Minimizing the risk to personal safety is perhaps the most complex aspect of returning to work, as many colleagues work in close quarters with each other in shared spaces, as well as use shared points of access each day. Whether you’re a manufacturer, systems integrator or on a sales team, you most likely have to access your workspace through some sort of physical access control point. Whether you use keycards, touchpads or simply ride the elevator, these are all considered high risk areas. Place hand sanitizer dispensers near exits and entrances, or consider touchless methods of entry if possible.
Additionally, you should take stock of your workspace and assess whether you’ll need to spread employees out at least six feet apart. If you have a spacious office or business, this might not be an issue, however for those working in close proximity it might be a greater incentive to save on tenant fees and continue virtually for a few months longer.
If your business requires employees to share service vehicles or partner up – are effective cleaning and sanitizing measures being set and adhered to? Additionally, if your employees are entering a residence or place of business, ensure you have guidelines set for them and, just as importantly, have clearly communicated to the customer what they should expect from the visit.
Are you cyber secure?
Scams and fraudulent claims have been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, showing cracks in many businesses’ cyber security strategies. With a large number of the workforce using work devices on personal networks, phishing attacks have increased as well as prevalence of fraudulent sites. This has exposed existing vulnerabilities and opened organizations up to new ones as well. While some might be integrating back into a physical workspace, it’s important to recognize that not everyone will be. Organizations and IT departments must be aware of risks associated with a partial remote workforce.
At the end of the day, it’s important to over communicate with employees and customers about your plans for the health and safety of your team and your end users. Review your policies and make sure you have a plan of action. Most importantly, recognize that this will not be “business as usual.” The workforce landscape has changed and we need to adapt along with it.