While a number of us continue to work remotely from our kitchen table or newly renovated home office, some companies are heading back to the office. If your company is opening its doors, there are a few things you need to take into consideration.
What are you doing to follow mandatory safety and health standards? And how are you ensuring your employees remain productive? Are you ready to return to the office from a logistics standpoint? Above all else, how do your employees feel about returning to the workplace from a safety perspective as well as mentally?
2020 brought dozens of life changes for many, and a return to the workplace may just be the key to kicking 2021 off on a high note. Below are a few subtle factors that could influence productivity in the workplace while following COVID-19 regulations, helping ensure a smooth, and positive transition!
Create a Safe Environment
The office setup and environment are major attributes to ensuring your employees stay productive. Unfortunately, co-working spaces as we knew them before COVID are likely a thing of the past for the time being. A couple of components that have an impact on a workspace are the temperature, lighting, and furniture quality.
Say goodbye to boring, tightly-packed cubicles and hello to a non-traditional workspace. Providing unique amenities helps to drive innovation and boost efficiency. However, what does this look like during these uncertain times?
Accommodating durable furniture, such as high-quality desk chairs or socially distanced, yet comfortable couches throughout the office are still important so employees feel relaxed and stress-free. However, if your office currently has soft seating or looking to update, you will need to set safety standards and ensure that they are followed.
As more businesses transition back to an in-office environment, worker safety will be a priority regardless of your industry, and not just limited to more traditional hazardous occupations.
For example, create a signup sheet for employees to block off time to work from specific seating areas. This will help to enforce social distancing, but also keep a log of who worked in a specific area for disinfecting procedures. In the unfortunate event, someone happens to test positive, despite the vaccine beginning to roll out, having a sound understanding of where people have been in the office, where they are sitting, and conversing with will only help from a contact tracing angle as well.
While furnishing your office correctly both from a comfort and safety perspective, it’s just as important to consider what you are surrounding yourself and your employees with. Is your office bland and wanting inspiration or is it lacking the basic necessities employees have become accustomed to since working from home? Though these all may sound like extras, every extra step will only help encourage productivity and foster a safe environment as employees return.
If your office is large and encompasses several floors with a large number of employees, you also need to consider logistical plans for your return. The odds are you won’t be bringing everyone back at once for quite some time, so use the time before normalcy returns to test and implement new procedures.
As you have likely seen in many retail or grocery stores, “one-way” hallways will become the norm for many offices. While it may take extra time to get from Point A to B, safe traffic flow in the office also goes a long way in that safe environment. Additionally, certain high-traffic areas will likely need to be shut down or strictly monitored for cleanliness for the time being like the elevators or office kitchen.
At the end of the day, employees should understand the steps you’re taking to prioritize their safety.
Businesses around the world are adapting to the changes brought on by COVID-19. For almost a year now many individuals have been trying to settle into their new reality and while doing so experiencing the feeling of being isolated, distracted, and overwhelmed. It’s important to address health and safety concerns and let your employees know you are all in this together.
Employers can provide support in the form of words or actions to help foster a sense of relief amongst employees, especially for those who aren’t fully comfortable being back in an office setting. Something to consider may be setting up a support system. According to this Forbes article, Peldon Rose conducted a survey and found that 72% of employees want employers to champion mental health and well-being.
With that said, it’s important to make the best choices for your organization and include mental health coverage as part of your health care program. On the topic of mental health, the American Psychiatric Association Foundation estimates that $44 billion is lost annually to employee depression. While mental and emotional well-being, coupled with physical health has always been at the forefront, COVID has simply accelerated the importance of these topics.
If you notice a dip in productivity, instead of penalizing that individual, create a plan to modify their workload or help them create a workflow plan. Providing that support can help to avoid the added stress or pressure and allow your employees to get back into the swing of things.
Now more than ever, employees will expect their companies to lean into the human side of the business and not only understand their concerns but to be proactive in combating and nurturing any stressors they may be going through.
These support systems can come in a number of ways- from leadership teams working closely with people they may not have as much interface with, to more leniency on PTO or a higher acceptance for employees to work from home for whatever reason that may pop up.
Again, a few of these will require additional work from the employer end, but making sure your team is happy and safe will only lead to more productivity
Provide Access to Helpful Tools
While in the office, make sure employees are equipped with the tools to be successful in a different working environment. This means making sure your workforce is always connected, whether they’re in the office but unable to gather in meeting rooms or split between being remote and in the office. While it is exciting to have the team back under one roof, communication and the ability to carry out the most basic job functions remain paramount.
Luckily, there are dozens of popular platforms to ensure your teams are as collaborative as possible. Services such as Slack and Zoom have taken off, but there are others to consider as well. Just like your in-office environment being the best it can be, setting up the right collaboration tools also helps employees stay connected while being remote.
Aside from collaboration tools, there’s also a chance your workforce may be feeling burn-out from home or lack of motivation. This is especially relevant now as we are back in the swing of winter and the events COVIDs onset a year ago may feel like they’re coming back up again.
If this is the case, be sure you are subscribing to and encouraging your employees to continue growing and learning within your industry as well as understanding from an emotional and empathetic level what they may be experiencing.
Whatever your business’s goals are, most companies can benefit from an employee base that fosters growth. Services like HubSpot offer free courses on everything from persuasive email writing to closing sales. If your business uses Google, then Google Analytics Academy is a great tool to explore how Google works, help you execute marketing plans, and even gain certifications that show you’re an expert in your space.
Returning to the office for many is surely welcomed after the year 2020 was. As employers, this is a great time to make a positive impact on your teams during this transition period. Between clear lines of communication, long-sought-after in-person collaboration for the first time in nearly 12 months, and all the other benefits that come with working together, this is a vital point for your business.
As your employees return to the office, make sure you implement a few of the tips we suggested as any your leadership team has decided on. This is the time to be a leader and rally your team for a big 2021.
For those of you still working from home, with no plan in sight to return to the office, here are 12 home office ideas to help boost productivity. Times are changing with the introduction of the COVID vaccine, and things are slowly returning to a state we are used to.
While it may never be the same, the luxury of returning to the office for many looks promising as the time comes and more advances are made! Make the most of your time at home, and if you are gearing up to return to the office, start reacclimating yourself to waking up early, preparing your outfit the night before, and any other steps you would take! For more articles, check out our productivity section!