7 tips for a safe and rewarding return to office

Plans for returning to the office continue to be delayed. While this is certainly a setback, it's also an opportunity to further develop your return-to-office plan. Here are seven things you can do to ensure a successful transition back to the office.

As we enter into 2022, plans for reopening offices continue to be delayed as the pandemic enters into its next wave. From Seoul to Paris to San Francisco, employees are being urged to continue to work remotely. The delay may be a setback for reopening timelines, but it is also an opportunity to develop a return-to-office plan that demonstrates flexibility in terms of employee needs and changes in public health policies.

Allow employees to self select how they want to work

If an employee was able to do their job from home, then it's a good idea to continue to allow them the flexibility to choose what works best for them in terms of working style (based on business needs and performance). Employees have demonstrated that they can be productive outside of the office and many will change jobs before being 'forced' back. If you've been struggling to provide a great experience to office, remote and hybrid employees, then it's likely a good time to invest in a tool that can provide equal opportunities to all 3 categories by customizing engagement points and communications based on their preferences. Retaining current employees will more than pay for the investment!

Establish and enforce safety guidelines from day one

When employees walk back through the front door of the office, they should be able to do so with confidence. When developing a safety framework, it’s important to take standards issued by regulatory agencies into consideration. Ask yourself: Which work activities can be done at a distance? Is the office being properly ventilated? What sorts of policies can we develop regarding masks? It’s also a good idea to keep local and company-specific conditions in mind. Keep yourself informed about the current level of community transmission and make sure to adjust safety standards accordingly. Establishing safety guidelines, however, is not enough; they also need to be consistently enforced. Everyone has a right to a safe workplace and it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure this.

Clearly communicate new policies

Setting up a new way of working calls for implementing new policies. These may be extensions of safety guidelines or details on how a new hybrid model functions logistically. Active implementation requires knowing not only what the new policies are but also why they are there. While having employees read and sign new policies is critical, taking the experience one step further with interactive games and mnemonic devices can help employees to better remember the new protocols.

Re-establish your company’s office culture within the full company culture

While the pandemic has illustrated that the manager doesn’t need to be in the room in order for employees to be productive, many executives are concerned that the prolonged absence from a common work space may have had a negative effect on company culture. As you welcome back some employees into a mutual space of work, keep the enthusiasm high by reminding everyone of the cultural goals you are trying to achieve. 

Now is the time to re-engage your entire staff on your mission, your vision, and your company values. How are these values present in the day-to-day life of your workplace? How can you make sure that remotees are actively included? How are you actively working towards making these goals a reality? What are the KPIs that help you know your plan is achieving its goals? How are you setting your managers up for success if they have hybrid teams? Culture is created, so it is important to be intentional. 

Extending benefits

The pandemic has not only taught us about the realities of our healthcare system and what it can bear, it has also provided insight into how much employees shoulder when trying to balance their work responsibilities with those in their personal lives. From senior care and child care subsidies to mental health benefits and greater work flexibility, employers are stepping up and extending benefits. Providing such benefits enhances overall employee experience by viewing employees holistically instead of solely in the context of their role at the company.

Productive Workspaces

Making sure that employees who come back to the office are coming back to productive spaces is important for both morale and business productivity. With new safety guidelines and working models in place, take the opportunity to help facilitate these changes by giving the office a new layout. If possible, try offering returning employees a combination of common spaces that encourage collaborative work and private working spaces that make it easier for employees to concentrate.

Once they are in the office, aim to fulfill needs proactively by leveraging real-time employee data, such as location, working hours and meeting times. Additionally, make sure the process for obtaining equipment and booking spaces is quick and straightforward. This can mean setting up hardware vending machines or providing the staff with physical room-booking tablets.

Use software to drive success through personalization

Once your return-to-office plan is complete, an all-hands meeting with lots of time for questions is a great way to kick off the reopening. Don’t forget to enable digital participation for employees who decide to continue working remotely. After the all-hands, launch an experience plan that engages and informs employees of new safety guidelines, policies and benefits. 

With a tool like Dado, you can set this up to run automatically across the organization. By tailoring the communication to each employee’s profile, you can ensure they receive only the information that’s most relevant and actionable for them, increasing the success of your plan. Using a tool also keeps administration time down and gives you valuable data on how prepared your employees are every step of the way. 

Returning to the office is not simply about finding one’s way back to a desk, but about reentering a space that has been redefined by the pandemic. Ensuring that the transition is as smooth as possible will give both you and your company the confidence to embark on your next chapter in the workplace.

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