As vaccination programs continue to roll out worldwide, a return to physical offices seems imminent. However, fewer than one in five executives want to revert to the office as it was before the pandemic. The way we collaborate has changed permanently, and getting through the first 30 days of return to work can seem like a daunting prospect. That’s why a return to work checklist should be an essential part of your back to office plan.
After spending more than a year building remote work environments, you may have questions about what you’ll need to change to successfully head back to work in an office or hybrid setting. The great news is that most of your remote work practices and training will carry over. Digital collaboration and remote teams are here to stay, with 83% of employers stating the shift to remote work has been a success.
However, a hybrid work dynamic and lingering concerns over the pandemic will bring new challenges that work environments will have to adapt to in order to succeed. In the first few weeks, you'll need to consider how to maintain a comprehensive plan for workplace safety, shape employee experience to fit a new age of hybrid collaboration, and refit your organization to provide your teams with the tools they need to do their best work.
Return to work checklist
1. The workplace safety roadmap
One of the most common concerns among returning employees is workplace safety and exposure to COVID-19. A report published by Littler noted that 93% of employees stated it as a significant concern.
It’s critical that you establish a robust set of precautions to ensure your employees have peace of mind while working and interacting within the office. When building your workplace safety roadmap, consider the following:
Implement a health screening procedure that works for your organization
As employees begin to return to the office, you’ll need a health screening procedure that fits with your company environment and culture. Whether it’s through in-person temperature checks or a simple questionnaire, make sure your employees are comfortable with the safety procedures. Adapt quickly and accordingly if they aren’t.
Develop a return to office exposure response plan
Although unlikely if proper precautions are taken, it always helps to be prepared. If anyone in your organization is exposed, you’ll need a step-by-step plan that includes contact tracking procedures, stay-at-home requirements, and prepared communications to send to affected staff.
Stock personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees
Once employees settle on a work model (in-office, hybrid, etc.) and office spaces gradually fill, it’ll become easier to determine what you’ll need to keep in-office workers safe and comfortable. Keep a readily available stock of gloves, masks, and other PPE, and adjust as necessary in accordance with your headcount.
Establish sanitation and distancing procedures
Each physical workspace will have a different set of ideal sanitation and distancing procedures. Establish a routine and appropriate sanitation process for before, during, and after the workday, and ensure employees follow your policies for social distancing. This includes modifying and increasing physical spaces between workers, as well as restricting travel between offices.
2. Adapt the employee experience
Workers who return to the office will have new and differing perspectives on what makes for a great employee experience. No matter how well thought-out your plans may be, the first few weeks of return to work will change them. Listen to employee feedback and implement their suggestions in a prompt and impactful manner. It’ll take time for employees and organizations to adapt to a post-pandemic work environment, and adaptability will be the key to workplace success.
Set up multiple, accessible methods of feedback
Whether through regular surveys, suggestion boxes, or town-hall meetings, provide ample opportunity for employees to provide feedback both publicly and anonymously. Understanding employee frustrations is critical to formulating a better working experience. This also includes adjusting feedback methods according to your employees’ preferences.
Plan safe back to work events and offer new programs to help returning employees connect
Many returning employees will be shifting from passing their entire workdays at home to spending most of it outside. They’ll also go from exclusively digital communications to in-person interactions throughout the day. Provide small but impactful, day-to-day programs (such as funds for team luncheons, coffee chats, and happy hours) to help employees re-establish their New Normal. This also extends to programs like team building activities — consider new ways to help hybrid teams interact and bond together.
Establish clear communication channels across the organization
Schedules and processes will change alongside shifts in work environments, as employees choose to work remotely or in-office. With teams and individuals now operating in varied locations, helping employees understand these changes and establishing clear channels of communications between teams will be the foundations of successful cross-functional collaboration.
Provide benefits that establish new routines
Employees will need time to ease into their new digs and lifestyles. To help the transition, encourage them to maintain routines they’ve adopted at home, like taking regular screen breaks and walks, or providing additional time for people with caregiving responsibilities. Provide transitional benefits like commuter subsidies to help employees get re-accustomed to traveling to and from work.
3. Rethink your workspace
Refitting your physical spaces to accommodate both physical and digital collaboration is essential for the success of a hybrid work environment. As you prepare your return to work checklist, ensure your workforce has the tools and space they need to hit the ground running.
Re-acclimate your workspace dynamics
As employees return to physical offices, workspaces will have to change to accommodate a hybrid environment. For example, meetings that were once held exclusively through Zoom will now have to balance a team of digital contributors and a room of physical attendees. Make sure your physical spaces and workplace processes are fitted to facilitate collaboration in a hybrid environment.
Empower employees with the tools they need
Often at the encouragement of their organization, friends, or coworkers, many employees purchased amenities to improve their quality of life while working from home. This includes tools like new monitors, ergonomic keyboards, standing desks, and more. If possible, provide your employees with a workplace that matches the standards they’ve become accustomed to in order to ease the process of transition.
Create your return to work first-month checklist
Whether you’re in the process of completing your return to work plan or just starting to consider it, this guide will help you set up a smooth transition and a foundation for a successful, hybrid work environment.
Turn items in your back-to-work checklist into actionable tasks. Use an Application or Project Software to increase visibility and improve communication as employees head back to the office.