Many businesses have already begun their return to the workplace, but there remains a sense of uncertainty regarding that return. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed where and how we work; the offices we’re returning to look and function differently than the ones we left earlier in 2020.
We’ve gathered advice from experts in the industry to compile our top five tips for returning to the office, to help businesses navigate the transition. No matter which stage you’re currently experiencing, these key considerations will help ensure your workplace reintegration is smooth, safe and successful.
1. Careful workplace design can create a COVID-secure environment
The most important factor in the return to the office is user safety. Implementing design considerations like one-way navigation, contactless solutions, open meeting spaces and desk booking systems can help ensure the socially-distanced operation of your workplace, protecting employees while allowing them to collaborate in person. We recommend partnering with a workplace specialist on any COVID updates you may need – as government guidance continues to change, it’s important to have as much expert insight as possible.
2. Form a specialised response team
You’ll need a designated team of people from across your business to guide your reintegration as well as implement, monitor and maintain COVID-19 office regulations. Be sure to include members of as many departments as possible: this will ensure a direct link to feedback and input from every part of your business. Your response team will lead the business through the planning and transition stages of your workplace reintegration, and will need to stay abreast of evolving government guidelines. They should work closely with your health and safety officer as well. A great response team will play an integral role in communicating all changes and regulations with your staff and affirming that the business is prioritising their health and safety above all else.
3. Monitor employee sentiment with regular and transparent internal communication
The secret to successful change management is involving employees in any transformative processes and ensuring they feel included in the company’s journey. Including your staff in the emotional and practical development of your reintegration strategy is absolutely critical – in fact, your reintegration should be planned around feedback from your employees. Issuing regular surveys is an effective way to monitor sentiment and perceptions surrounding your return to the office, and will alert you to any concerns or needs your staff may have. We’ve developed an employee sentiment survey for businesses to use during their move back to the workplace: get in touch to request a copy.
4. Prioritise employee wellbeing
COVID-19 has changed the way we think about wellbeing. According to research conducted by Nuffield Health, 80% of British people feel that working from home full time has negatively impacted their mental health. The workplace has become more of a collaborative and social hub than simply a space in which to work. It’s important to provide this kind of environment to allow employees a change in scenery, proper work set-up and the space they need to come together safely. The built environment also has a major impact on physical health and can either negatively or positively affect occupant wellbeing. Make sure your office provides optimal levels of natural light, temperature and noise control, as well as task-specific workspace. You’ll also need to consider whether your remote employees have the resources they need to work comfortably from home.
5. Re-evaluate the way you use your space
Occupancy levels have changed dramatically and this, in combination with the success of remote working, has led businesses to rightfully reconsider their workspace requirements. We strongly recommend going through a space rationalisation process in order to analyse your current workspace and identify opportunities to improve efficiencies. Space rationalisation is the process experts use to identify underutilised workspace, allowing businesses to optimise their commercial assets either by refurbishing their current space, relocating to take up less space or subletting a portion of their office space. In each case, businesses stand to save millions of pounds each year in rental costs as well as benefiting from improved creativity, productivity and profit.