As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 2.7 billion people, or more than four out of five workers in the global workforce have been affected by lockdowns and stay-at-home measures. As a result, business owners have been challenged to respond to the crisis quickly and rethink workforce strategies. Deloitte: COVID-19: Workforce Strategies for Post-COVID Recovery
The re-introduction to office life, replicating the pre-COVID-19 way can be risky if not dangerous, and businesses that fail to properly plan may expose themselves to unnecessary risk. Below we have outlined the main considerations businesses need to take when it comes to post-COVID-19 workplace planning.
1. The location of your workforce
While some employees will return onsite, the reality is that others may continue to work remotely. Some employees will engage in a hybrid activity where they work remotely much of the time yet come together with team members for specific functions. Either way, workers should be prepared with the skills and capabilities for such a return. This may include providing them with the infrastructure and technology required to undertake their roles, such as access to internet and bandwidth as well as tools for virtual work as well as the critical knowledge resources and digital access they need to meet both immediate and future work requirements.
2. Safely structuring the office workspace
Social distancing may be here to stay at least temporarily and even though the COVID-19 crisis begins to fade, the initial safety challenge will still be enormous. Among other things, as a business owner, you will need to consider whether greater social distancing is possible given the design and operations of your existing office or facility. Potentially, redesigning your space to reduce density may have to be considered, and if not encouraging some remote work options. Furthermore, floor decal outlining meter distancing or appropriate signage should also be considered. Another option may be to stagger work hours or having different teams reporting to work on different days in order to facilitate social distancing requirements.
3. Personal protective equipment and health of the workplace
When approaching the post-COVID-19 workforce reality, employers should think about what PPE, if any, employees should wear and what training employees will need to have to be trained in its use and proper disposal.
Furthermore, ensuring your workforce is actually fit and healthy and not infectious may be another responsibility to consider. This means that resources may be required to take the temperature of employees as they arrive for work or asking those who are presenting symptoms such as coughing or showing other observable symptoms not to enter the workplace. It may also be essential for businesses to limit undue by reconfiguring lunch and break rooms etc.
4. Rebuild workplace morale
The human element of a return to the office environment will need as much focus as some of the practical elements. For those who have been away from the office for weeks if not months, returning will feel unsettling. The way we do work has changed, as may have their physical space and even some of their teams.
Successful businesses thrive on engaged and enthusiastic workforces, so it’s important that leaders invest efforts to rebuild workplace morale. Be available to your employees, and provide them with HR resources to listen to their concerns. Treat these concerns with sensitivity and empathy and ensure that even though reality may look and feel different the business and goals of the business have not changed and they are valued and work with purpose.
Clear communications, polices, and training regarding all of the items above are essential for the successful transition. Employees will see and appreciate what you as a business owner is trying to do to keep them employed, safe, and healthy in this unknown climate.