Cartoon coffee break: Ensuring employee safety in post-pandemic offices
May 13, 2021
Ensuring employee health and safety in return-to-office plans will lead to a different in-person work experience than before COVID. Office cleaning routines, the physical space between desks and the format of full-team, in-person meetings all may require a different approach.
With this transition, employers should look to implement staggered work shifts and configure a physical workspace that best suits employees’ preferences and company culture.
Safely bringing employees back
Even after vaccines are distributed and travel bans are lifted, many workers are nervous about returning to the office. According to a study by Envoy, a majority (66%) of employees say they are worried about their health and safety when it comes to returning to the workplace. To reassure employees of an office’s safety and assuage any concerns, employers can create, implement and share sanitation checklists for workspaces (here’s a useful template from EHS Today to get you started).
They can also experiment with staggered work shifts. To do this, determine which of your people need to be in the office at the same time and whose positions are more suited for remote work. Then create individualized schedules for teams to gather in the office. This will ensure that employees have the chance to travel into the office if they want. For example, younger workers who crave more professional experience and networking opportunities are predicted to want to return to an office at least part-time, and staggered work shifts will give them this option.
Assessing the Physical Work Space
According to a recent survey from Cisco, some 53% of larger organizations plan to reduce the size of their office space post-pandemic. Instead, organizations are focusing on creating communal spaces for group work while encouraging individual tasks to be done remotely—meaning they’ll need to rethink the physical office.
Before redesigning their offices, business leaders should ask questions like: Is it large enough to allow for social distancing? Does it have spaces for teams to collaborate, or is it still separated by cubicles or individual offices?
Business leaders will also have to think about how this new office space will affect their company’s culture and employees’ productivity. For many companies, increased investments in structural resources like virtual collaboration tools and IT improvements will be necessary to account for each.
Success is in Patience and Understanding
Planning for the return-to-office doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. Ensuring employee health and safety requires patience, as well as an understanding of what your company and its people need to succeed post-COVID.