With more and more people getting vaccinated each day, companies continue to think about preparing their employees to return to a physical workspace. Some establishments, including restaurants, grocery stores and other retail shops, have already had to think about these issues since their employees have been back to work in some capacity for a while. Other businesses still have most of their employees working remotely since the start of the pandemic. With varying timetables, companies are evaluating what needs to be done to re-open safely and keep their employees motivated, healthy and productive.

If you are an owner or a manager, here are some areas to think about as you contemplate bringing your business back to “normal.” Some companies are targeting a June 2021 return while many others are thinking about re-opening after Labor Day as most schools and daycare centers anticipate being back onsite on a full-time, regular basis. Whatever your business is contemplating, here are some areas to consider.

Be Flexible

Since the pandemic has been going on for over a year, the transition back to work may be challenging. Not all employees will want to return to the office. Some employees may be scared and wary of returning to work since the Covid-19 virus is still a real health concern. Some employees have enjoyed working from home because they no longer had to spend time and money commuting to work, and have been able to spend more time with family. Others believe working in an office environment helps them become more productive, freer from distraction, and cultivates a more collaborate work experience. For all these reasons, the most important thing for employers is to be flexible and open to the wants of their employees while also keeping the company’s best interests in mind. Making adjustments such as staggering work schedules and days in the office can go a long way in showing your employees you care.

Have Safety Measures in Place

Businesses have to think about having a safe environment for their employees. Have you increased the HVAC ventilation and established a regular office cleaning schedule? Will you have lots of hand sanitizer on hand and require wearing masks? Will you conduct regular health screenings of your employees? If you have an office, think about how you might rearrange desks or cubicles to give your workers social distancing space.

Hybrid Work Schedules

Many employees are still concerned about being exposed to people outside their loved ones. Do you want to create a staggered schedule so not all employees are physically in the office at the same time(s) and day(s)? Some companies have established a hybrid schedule where people can be in the office a couple of days a week and telecommute the other days, while also allowing employees who do not wish to return to the office the option to continue working from home. These varied schedules and work options have helped ease the transition for many employees, and can help limit exposure as more and more people get vaccinated.

Solid Telecommunications Systems

Another area to consider is to make sure your business has a solid telecommunications system and a large enough workspace in the office to hold your Zoom, Google Meet or Teams meetings. With a mix of in-person and virtual attendees, you want to make sure these meetings can take place without a hitch. There may be a need for increased internet speed with more people working in the office while conducting business virtually. Many companies have already addressed this issue with virtual meetings being so commonplace.

Communicate Clearly

Most importantly, businesses need to communicate expectations and guidelines clearly and regularly, so employees understand what is expected in terms of their work productivity. If hybrid work schedules are being considered, management needs to explain their expectations and the employee options. Managers should take time to listen to their employees’ concerns and make changes, as necessary. Many companies have surveyed their employee population to determine employee concerns and preferences with respect to a return to office. Employers that include employees in the process by actively engaging with and listening to employees, and then giving support throughout the work transition have happier, productive employees and a positive environment – a win-win for employers!

The COVID-19 pandemic threw many companies, employees and families for a loop, and there is no clear road map on how to get back to “normal.” Hopefully, the areas outlined above can help you think about what type of work set-up would be best for your business. If you need help or want to talk through your ideas, please reach out to Answer Human Assets. We serve small to mid-sized businesses with their Human Resource needs and would be happy to help you. Please reach out to us at spanzer@ahahr.com for a free consultation.