5 essential guidelines for transitioning back to the office after COVID-19

    May 1, 2020

    We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

    U.S. states are beginning to take initial steps toward reopening and soon businesses will need to decide how, when and if they’ll start permitting employees to return to the workplace.

    While it’s imperative that you follow the guidance of your state and local governments, as well as all CDC guidelines, planning ahead will help ensure a smoother transition.

    Here are five guidelines for a post-pandemic return to the workplace plan, with an emphasis on safety, readiness and resilience.


    1. Test and clean unused equipment and workspaces

    Many of your facilities have been closed and unused for an extended period of time, so you’ll need to make sure the workplace is ready for your employees to return, in terms of both safety and functionality.

    Start by checking your equipment. Test printers and copiers, make sure power generators are ready to go and conduct maintenance where required. Perform a deep clean as well. Sanitize equipment and high-touch common areas like coffee makers, refrigerators, kitchen countertops and break rooms.  

    Only once you’ve confirmed that your office is functional and clean can you begin returning individuals to work.

    1. Create new guidelines for workplace interaction

    Establish new policies to minimize exposure of employees in the workplace. Consider restricting the usage of non-essential common areas (e.g., break rooms and kitchens) and enforcing long- and short-term social distancing in the workplace.

    Take measures to reduce workplace density, like limiting the number of employees permitted in open workspaces and decrease the number of chairs in conferences rooms. Additionally, encourage employees to use virtual meetings even after they’ve returned to the workplace.

    1. Gauge your employees’ overall readiness

    Your workforce should feel confident that they’re returning to a safe workplace. Check in with employees on how comfortable they are with returning to the workplace and make sure any furloughed workers are available to come back.

     

    Furthermore, they may have other needs to take care of before they’re ready or able to return. For some, that may mean arranging child care and transportation. You can make the transition smoother by syncing up with local school and mass transit re-openings.

    1. Sequence employees’ return

    If you’re like most organizations, you won’t need all your employees to return in a single day or even the same week.

    Sequence the return of employees to keep risk at a minimum. The first wave might include HR and leadership teams, employees with private offices and any personnel who cannot perform their jobs remotely.

    Make sure you stagger the return of entire departments, especially if that expertise is concentrated in one location. This reduces the risk of an entire department falling ill, should one of your offices have an outbreak.

    As a precaution, consider extending remote work for personnel who can do their jobs from home and those with unique skill sets or responsibilities.

    1. Begin re-evaluating your overall business continuity

    You may have relaxed some of your cybersecurity controls as you quickly transitioned to a large-scale remote workforce. Reverse these actions in order to re-establish security and control.

    Along with reversing course, document any changes you’ve made and begin re-evaluating your overall business continuity and response plan while it’s fresh in your mind.

    Plan ahead and do it right

    As states slowly begin loosening restrictions, it’s time to look ahead to returning to your physical workplace.

    By taking these steps and planning ahead, you can keep your employees safe and productive while also ensuring a smooth transition back to the office.

     

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