As people begin to get the vaccine for Covid-19, there are likely to be more conversations about employees leaving from their remote workstations and their jammies for a return to the office and work clothes. Let’s face it, companies are still spending a lot of money to lease or maintain office space, and some managers are still suspicious that they aren’t getting a full day’s work from people sitting at home. A study from the Best Practice Institute showed that 83 percent of CEOs want people back in the office this year.
But that may set up a conflict. The same survey showed that only 10 percent of workers want to go back full-time. That difference is likely to cause some interesting conversations.
The study did give some indication as to what employees we’re looking for when they have to come back.
Over 60% of employees said they want to be informed of any coworkers illnesses. Given HIPPA regulations, that might prove to be a problem.
They also want the option to work from home. But will companies allow employees to decide that on their own?
How will you deal with the concerns of your workers? Or are you planning a return to the office a mandate? What will do if someone gets sick?
There is no doubt that your decision will cause anxiety.
“Uncertainty and unpredictability can create an unhealthy amount of fear and stress, especially when it’s sustained over such a long period of time,” says K. Luan Phan, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Ohio State University. He added, “Challenges will remain as businesses reopen, and the typical workplace will look very different following this pandemic. We’ll have to find new ways to connect with colleagues and work as a team while maintaining our distance and preventing the spread of infection.”
So, what can you do to help make an uncomfortable situation even worse?
Consider bringing people back by departments or teams. Which people must be in the office to work more efficiently and with others?
Will you let workers attend meetings outside of your building and, if so, with what precautions? What about attending conferences and training? For a while, such things might have to be approved on a case by case basis depending on importance.
Will you arrange workspaces to provide more separation? Consider converting conference rooms into offices. You might be able to move cubicle walls if you have the space to do so.
You might need to work with health officials to improve on-site hygiene, including requiring regular handwashing and cleaning supplies being made readily available.
Some companies will want to take the temperature of workers as they arrive. Your receptionist may be charged with checking visitors. I suspect that sooner or later, we will see offices with heat detection cameras.
Many of the decisions you will need to make in the months ahead will require consultation and empathy. Work with your human resource department, a labor lawyer, and your staff to develop a strategy that will work for you. Not everyone will agree with the outcome, but the more inclusion you have, the greater chance that your result will be successful.
If you are beginning to think about what it will be like to bring your workers back to the office, I’d like to send you my FREE e-book, “Leading Your Way Through and Out of The Coronavirus Pandemic.”
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