The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic instilled a sense of impending slowdown of life as we knew it. However, not many of us anticipated a total shutdown. We assumed that this deceleration of normal life might be for a couple of weeks. Or maybe a few months at the most. And just when we begin settling into our new way of life, the lockdown seems to be easing up in most cities/countries.
Some offices are now partially opening their gates to welcome back their employees. Regardless of what the situation at your workplace is, one thing is for sure – it is unlikely that things will ever be the same.
If you, as a business, have decided to go back to things as they were before the pandemic, it will help to have proper management policies in place. During a time like this, we cannot afford to compromise on planning precaution measures. A few things to focus on are: to increase the productivity of employees, to promote trust in the workplace, and to keep customers and employees safe.
Complying with New Rules & Regulations
The onset of any major world event calls for us to tweak existing norms. The world, as we know it today, is no different. It may be challenging at times, but we have to comply with new regulations for our safety.
The first priority is the safety of your employees. In most countries, employees enjoy the luxury of enjoying a safe working environment. Some guidelines aim to protect their emotional, physical, and mental health. In a post-pandemic world, all three aspects of well-being remain. However, physical safety is paramount.
As an employer, it will help to consider the needs of employees that are the most vulnerable, when deciding on an updated ‘return-to-work’ plan. With that said, try and incorporate the needs of every type of employee when strategising on how to get your business back to normal.
Secondly, inform your employees about the new guidelines. It may also help to assign special staff to monitor and routinely share updates on what’s happening. Create guidelines that keep the situation of your local area in mind, and keep an eye out for global affairs.
Thirdly, take a global perspective into consideration. Be open to reconfigure, rearrange, or remodel your building if necessary. Maybe even make changes to seating arrangements, wall set-ups, and work schedules.
Wearing Masks, Sanitizing, And Social Distancing Are Non-negotiable
All the new official guidelines under today’s pandemic crisis revolve around three main principles – wearing masks, sanitising, and social distancing. As simple as they sound, some of these guidelines can be challenging, depending on your industry. Restrictions will change as the threat of COVID-19 diminishes or escalates. Regardless, it is vital to think long-term when you invest in safety equipment/measures.
Wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will depend on your area of work. It is crucial to ensure that employees are wearing the necessary protective gear. However, consider that some of them may not be mask-friendly and may need to avoid the workplace altogether. We’re talking about employees with asthma or respiratory ailments.
A clean workplace is crucial for employees’ well-being, even more so in a COVID-19 world. Set up hygiene stations around the office – complete with gloves, hand sanitiser, and disinfecting wipes. Also, look into hiring more maintenance staff because the bathrooms, break rooms, conference rooms, and other shared spaces will require more frequent and thorough cleaning than before.
The plexiglass offers an added layer of protection in places where social distancing in offices may be a challenge – entrances, exits, lounge areas, and reception bays. Putting up posters of new guidelines or other visual cues around the workplace will remind employees and customers alike to abide by the rules.
Thermal scanners and UV lights also prove to be helpful to combat COVID-19. You can check with your local, regional, and country authorities to determine the safety measures that are most feasible for your team.
Optimise Real Estate and Technology
We are constantly told to maintain a distance of six feet to protect ourselves and other people. Maintaining physical distance from one another prevents us from inhaling infected air particles. As simple as the above guideline sounds, it can prove challenging for many businesses.
The thing is, social distancing guidelines vary from region to region or from one country to another. For instance, 6 feet is the standard distance in the UK. However, the WHO recommends a distance of 1 meter.
One of the main problems that social distancing guidelines bring upon employers is that it may reduce workforce capacity. The potential threat of space loss brings about some compelling queries:
- Is it feasible for some employees to work remotely for an even more extended time? Can employers and employees continue to run a business with the current work schedules? Is cutting down on staff an option?
- Should employers buy or rent additional office space to accommodate as many employees possible (given social distancing guidelines)? Or will retrofitting the current office space suffice? Is moving an option, or should employers negotiate the terms of their lease?
- How do we prepare our office, so it is better prepared for future emergencies?
Many businesses today rely on software such as the Hoteling software for real estate planning in a pandemic world. This software helps employers visualise revised staff schedules, new seating arrangements, and office remodelling. This way, you don’t have to spend actual money or invest time in wholesale revamps without being sure about the result of your labour.
As a business owner, you can mandate that employees reserve a hotel desk reporting to work. Ask them to show the reservation before entering. Require facility management to sanitise the hotel desk before the next reservation.
The Next ‘New Normal’
There is no saying when this pandemic will ease. Regulations are under constant scrutiny and change. Reopening a workplace during such a time can be quite a challenge. The only thing you can do is be flexible and adapt. Revise existing policies for leaves, working remotely, or work schedules if required.
You may not be able to predict every situation or assess its outcome. However, you can be flexible and seamlessly establish new guidelines as and when time demands.