Returning to the Office Checklist

The post-COVID-19new normal” demands a consistent drive to keep everyone healthy and safe from new risks like the Omicron variant. Masks, social distancing, and preventative measures like using sanitizers and regularly cleaning office spaces might work. Still, more work is needed to ensure everyone returns to the office in the right state of mind. 

Both employees and employers should expect to balance well-being and productive output. This is a checklist for returning to the office to help with your planning and communication.

return to office

Returning to the Office For Employees

It’s alright to be concerned about the uncertainties when you get back to the office. Sometimes, the social, professional, and logistical anxiety incapacitates you when thoughts of returning to work cross your mind.

Whatever your reason, returning to the office can be a positive and productive experience if you are open to tools to help with the transition. This starts with understanding why it is essential to return to the office. 

  1. Individual happiness and fulfillment

The most important reason for returning to work is not productivity or efficiency. Instead, it is the feeling of belonging and social identity that employees get when in the workplace community. Paradoxically, some of the things employees are looking for in a hybrid world include:

  • Flexibility in office and remotely workplaces
  • Excellent use of physical office space

While overlooked, human connections significantly impact how we perform as individuals. We are made for relationships and companionship. A workplace allows employees to positively connect and contribute to a more extraordinary cause with their talents.

Research also shows that employees are more likely to get a sense of social identity with their colleagues than with their gym or investment buddies. So, if you need a good reason to get back to the office, contemplate the happiness and fulfillment you get from solving problems with your teammates.

2 Technology only helps to a certain level

Technology has enhanced the capabilities of human connection, but talking on the phone every day doesn’t compare to face-to-face interaction.

Isolation results in increased health and well-being issues, and technology fatigue can lead to exhaustion. That said, being in the office gives you a break you need from zoom calls and the face-to-face interactions you need to keep you healthy.

Moreover, research shows that socializing makes people smarter because it improves their mental function. This means that the more you interact in the office, the more you improve your cognitive performance because your mental processes emphasize, listen, respond, and think. 

What To Expect When You Return to the Office?

Expect to find these changes in the office as you start preparing to return to the office:

  1. Prepare to split your time between working from home and in the office. Unless your position and responsibilities require you to be in the office full time, the hybrid workplace model will be your norm.
  2. Expect to lose your desk for hot desks or workstations. Open workspaces or boardrooms where employees can interact and collaborate will stay. But the likely shift to a hybrid workplace is that you will lose your desk in favor of a hot desk that allows you to reserve a spot you like.
  3. Your office might be operating as a “hub and spoke” office concept to accommodate your remote work schedules.
  4. Don’t throw away your comfort clothes just yet. Many employers are getting comfortable with flexible working models and processes, so they also consider relaxed dress codes.
  5. Expect to find enhanced safety protocols, like regular temperature checks, screening at the office entrance, and socially distanced workstations. Employers are keen on keeping the safety protocols regardless of the administration of vaccines. 

How to Prepare for the Return to the Office?

Returning to the office will be overwhelming, but you can implement these practices to help you comply:

  1. Practice Openness

Communicate all your concerns with your employers. Also, identify what you need. For instance, we mentioned the childcare concern for parents. If this is you, ask your employer if you can get to work slightly later and leave earlier than you usually would, or if you can work remotely on most days of the week. 

Another primary concern might be your workload. Instead of taking it all in stride, ask your employer to reduce your workload where possible.

2. Promote Hygiene

Accept that your responsibility is to promote your colleagues‘ health and safety just as you encourage yours. As such, communicate any health concerns in advance. 

When in the office, wash your hands, sanitize your workstation, and stick to your schedule. Take the stairs instead of the lift if you will. 

Some other considerations for your people:

  • Focus on the positives of returning to the office, like reducing distractions and finally creating a boundary between work and home life.
  • Connect with one colleague or a small group of workmates to build a support team.
  • Figure out what makes you comfortable and safer and communicate with your team and supervisor. For instance, introverts need some solo time to recharge.
  • Take care of yourself with exercise, a healthy meal plan, adequate sleep, and a healthy routine that includes relaxation time.
  • Let go of the pressure to perform from the first day you are back at the office. Allow yourself to learn and relearn the ins and outs of being in the office, then make your experience better.

How Do You Get People Excited About Returning to the Office?

Employers find returning to the office just as overwhelming as employees do. In some cases, employers’ pressure is more prevalent because you have to think about yourself, your company, and your employees.

48% of employees say they feel uneasy about in-person interactions in the office regardless of the vaccine. How do you ensure that the returning to the office processes provide the correct comfort levels for everyone in the organization?

Start by explaining why you need employees back in the office. Employers will have different reasons to want their employees back to the office. Some of the reasons to guide your decision are:

  • You want to promote collaboration.
  • You want to make your workflow processes more efficient.
  • You want to build a community where knowledge is shared to boost employee performance.
  • You have a new business mission or vision you want to share with the organization.
  • You want the opportunity to communicate and connect with your employees face-to-face, like showing gratitude for a job well done.

Then allow your employees to phase out their return to the office. This will enable them to move back slowly until each is comfortable being in the office. Ensure you have a precise phasing-out period. Offer your employees transition objects like a welcome back gift or offer your employees the flexibility to work from home or in person.

Encourage socialization and connections, not just among colleagues but between the employee and the company’s mission. The resulting sense of purpose motivates employees to return to work faster. Remember to communicate clearly and comprehensively with your employees about your reasons for wanting them back to the office.

Return to Office Checklist

What Do You Need to Return to the Office

  • You need flexibility if you offer flexible workspaces for your employees.
  • You need safety protocols to safeguard your employees‘ health and minimize the risk of infection or the spread of new COVID variants.
  • You need a list of your employee concerns, including unfair dismissals, mental health, testing and vaccination protocols, traveling procedures, discrimination, and transport options to and from work. 

What Safety Protocol Should You Follow?

These protocols will help you safely manage your teams return to the office:

  • Complete your risk assessment to address the viral spread
  • Include a screening process in your office
  • Maintain social distancing measures
  • Ensure the office is clean and hygienic. Ensure employees have places to wash hands
  • Your office spaces should have ample ventilation
  • Involve workers in safety protocols through communication
  • Keep watch of remote workers and talk to them about their well-being
  • Identify your vulnerable workers and provide control measures for them

Your return to work checklist should have at least ten issues in the list, which are:

  1. Your workplace safety. Some of the safety measures on your checklist include screening procedures, PPE like masks and hand sanitizer, cleaning procedures, physical distancing measures, and a workplace vaccination strategy.
  2. Your Recall processes. Consider how you phase in employees, whether you have high-risk employees, and how to handle your remote employees.
  3. Your remote workers. Are you adapting to a hybrid or a flex workplace model? Will employees choose the days they will work from home, or are you making a fixed schedule? This section allows you to respond to the needs of your remote workers.
  4. Your communication processes. You need a clear communication plan and channels to assimilate to the new workplace standard. You also need to determine how you will respond to unexpected health concerns.
  5. Your new policies. You are likely to change your policies as you change your business model. You must indicate them in your return to work plan.
  6. You offer employee benefits. Some benefits to consider giving your employees include health insurance, pension plans, paid leave, and flexible spending accounts.
  7. Your compensation policies. Many employers change their compensation policies to accommodate the shock of the pandemic. As such, this is the time to adjust and readjust your compensation policies to fit the new workplace normal.
  8. Your hiring processes. Do you need standard hiring procedures, or are you looking for a new kind of employee? For instance, you might need to hire one that is comfortable in a hybrid workplace.
  9. Your business growth plans. What plans do you have to grow the business?
  10. Union policies. If some of your employees are in unions, you need to address any immediate concerns like existing wages and benefits or the no-strike clause.

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