9/23/2020

A Comprehensive Guide of Returning to the Office

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to loosen, more businesses will be opening their doors and returning to the office, but at what cost? The office environment must evolve with the times, which means improved health equipment, updated regulations, and possibly, an entirely new layout.

In the coming weeks, your business will likely be ready to return to the office, but are you prepared to handle everything associated with doing so? 

Is it necessary to return to the office?

The biggest question facing many business owners right now is: do we need to return to the office? Depending on the industry that your business is in, remote work may be just as productive as working in the office was, but at a fraction of the cost. 

However, for many businesses, remote work has come with a laundry list of headaches, both for leadership and the employees. 

Whatever route your business decides to take, be sure to do research to make sure that you are making the right decision. 

Looking into specific data such as your organization’s revenue numbers, monthly cash flow, employee retention rates, and other key performance indicators will help you better understand if your business has been more or less productive during this period of remote work.

Besides just looking into data, you should also gauge your employees’ feelings about going back to the office. Any decision that has as large of an impact on your employees should not be made without talking with them about it. 

You may find that not enough of your employees want to return to the office to warrant doing so. If this is the case but you still want the opportunity to occasionally work in person with your coworkers, check out some of the office meeting spaces we have available to book. Your business can get all the perks of having an office without having the overhead costs of owning the property.

Whatever you find, conducting relevant research will help you make the right decision for your business. If you don’t have the capability to put together an effective survey, use this COVID-19 workplace survey template from the Society for Human Resource Management.

Is the workplace going to be safe?

The first thing you should address when returning to the workplace is the safety of the office. Workplace health concerns are likely something that you only would think about during the flu season, but now, it’s a year-round ordeal. 

Equipment will need to be purchased to prevent the spread of germs. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be purchased in bulk. The most important items to add to your list should be; masks, hand sanitizer, face shields, plexiglass dividers, and industrial cleaners. 

On top of the usual PPE equipment that will need to be purchased, consider investing in some other workplace safety equipment. Something like installing motion detected lights can go a long way when preventing the spread of germs.

Safely returning to the office will be a costly venture for your company, but the money will be well spent. If you feel like the money is going to be tight, outside loan options are available to help offset the initial costs of making your office safer. Certain business lenders will even offer loans specifically geared towards purchasing equipment. 

If you do decide to get a business loan, or if you have the cash on hand, we suggest that you purchase PPE in bulk. Over the past few months, popular supplies have been hard to come by, and purchasing in bulk will ensure that your business has the supplies needed to be safe.

If you still want more guidance about returning to the workplace, the CDC recently put out COVID-19 employer information on their site. 

Your company has decided to return. What are the next steps?

If your company does decide to return to the office, that is great, but there is much more work to be done. Before you do anything, we suggest that you look on your local government’s website to see what COVID restrictions are still in place in your area.

Now that you’re committed to returning to the office, you will need to visualize what that exactly will look like. Will your employees all be returning to the office? Will there be certain days that people can use their office? Will the layout be the same? These are all important questions that will need to be answered before doing anything else.

As you begin to visualize what the new office environment will look like, you should start to update your employee handbook. Your old employee handbook likely does not address remote work to the extent that the new handbook will.

Partner with your HR department to draft a new guidebook that will detail every new procedure of the updated workplace. Some things you will need to address in the new employee handbook are:

1. Update Attendance Policies

Employees with kids, elderly parents, or other at-risk family members may need to miss work more often than they would previously. Consider being more flexible with attendance moving forward to ease any concerns your employees may have.

2. Solidify Remote Guidelines

If you do decide to implement remote work into your business, you will need to clarify what that will look like for your employees. You will need to plan out how to get employees their equipment, figure out time tracking, invest in new technology, and account for time-zone differences and other logistical issues that may arise. 

3. Improve Workplace Safety 

In your new employee handbook, dedicate a section about in-office procedures and guidelines. Things like shared spaces, communal eating areas, and more may need to be restricted to prevent the spread of germs.

Being as transparent as possible will ease any concerns that your employees may have when returning to the office.

Final tips to ensure success in this new environment.

Returning to the office is going to come with some hurdles, but with enough preparation, your business will be able to handle anything thrown your way. 

Some final tips to keep in mind when moving forward:

1. Be Compassionate 

Like you, your employees are trying to figure out how to best navigate the new world that we live in. Be patient with any issues that may arise in the coming months. A compassionate leader is needed during times of hardship.

2. Provide the Tools to Succeed

Your workforce may be more fragmented than before, but that is okay. With the advancement of business technology, there are plenty of resources available to promote productivity, even in a disjointed work setting.

3. Accept Change

Humans tend to dislike change. Sometimes though, change is necessary. While you can wish for the world to be like it was before, it just isn’t. Accepting change and adopting earlier will help your business be successful moving forward.

There will be many hardships that your business will face in the coming months, but working through hardships is the sign of a great leader. 

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