It feels like just as we all got used to the idea that we could all be working from home for a very long time, it’s time for many of us to start planning our transition back to the workplace. While this is great news for businesses who are able to start offering more of their usual services, and for team members who are ready to be back with their buddies; there are a few things to consider before we dive back in.
Of course, this is our first and (always) favourite tip. Talk to your people about your plans for returning to the workplace, include them in decision making if possible. In this ever changing world, people like to feel as though they have some control. Give people as much notice of changed working conditions as possible and consider their personal circumstances.
Individuals and families have a lot of moving parts at the moment, with schooling, personal health concerns, preexisting health concerns, and financial and relational pressures. Where possible, be considerate of these circumstances and discuss flexible options that may work for your team member and the business.
As so many people are experiencing or realising now that we are separate, our workplaces are a hub for social interaction. It will still be a long while before things are ‘back to normal’ or ‘the way they were before’. This might mean you have teams that used to sit closely together for collaboration, that now can’t all fit into the same corner of the office. Just as we have been doing while people are working remotely, we will need to continue to be intentional about ensuring we encourage social interaction. Whether you find the biggest space in your office and have standing (socially distanced) team meetings using a megaphone, or each day (after appropriate daily cleaning) the team rotates desks so no one is stuck using the meeting room as their office, alone,all week.
For many businesses, the size and speed of the change associated with moving a team to remote work was big. There are no doubt things that you would do differently, or things that don’t work quite as well as they did when you were all in the workplace together. But if you look critically, I’m sure you would also find many changes that have streamlined, innovated or just made things a little bit easier! Can you keep these change as you move ‘back to work’?
Thinking a little further down the track, what ways of working or structures in your business might need to change longer term? What function does your physical workplace need to play? Will you continue to have people working remotely? Will the number of team members of they play in the business change? While in the midst of it, it’s a great time to reflect and start to put in motion some of these changes for the future.
This is probably front of mind for most business owners, but we couldn’t not include it. Obviously, there are many processes and activities that business owners will need to be putting in place to ensure the safety of their employees and customers/clients/visitors.
- Keep your distance – ensure there is adequate space for your staff to practice appropriate social distancing.
- Cleaning & hygiene – there are plenty of checklist and guidance available at Safe Work Australia on the appropriate cleaning regime. Ensuring your team have hygiene products like tissues, hand soap and sanitiser available is also important.
- Plan for a case in your workplace – while things are looking good, the pandemic is not over and so it’s important to have a plan for if there is a COVID case identified in your workplace (you may already have one from back in March!).
- Signage and guidance for customers/visitors – having signage and guidance(like floor markings or physical barriers) in place for customers/visitors means your team can reference these, rather than having to explain the situation in full. Your customers/visitors will also likely feel more comfortable that you are in control and have thought of their safety too.
- Training – Dept of Health have developed a brief 30-minute COVID-19 Infection Control online training module which anyone can do for free. It’s designed specifically for health-related industries but contains handy tips for all (and you get a certificate)!