How to safely resume work from office post pandemic

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What does returning to the workplace look like, now that it is time to reboot?  We have seen people work remotely, and this has become the ‘new normal’.  But, to continue this norm in the future, new technologies and new work culture will need to be adopted. Businesses will also need to make prominent changes around health and safety in the workplace.

How should your business function in this new environment? How will the shift from work from home (WFH) to work from office (WFO) happen? It will depend on many factors, and you can embrace some of them – to accelerate your workforce strategy.
By using data and insights to drive decisions, you can manage new operations, technologies and new ways of working, while meeting the needs of your people and your business, as you move ahead.

Here are some tips:

  • Communicate changes
    Remember to lead with purpose, optimism and clarity. Make sure you go a long way on your purpose. Also inspire and teach your team leaders or managers new ways to lead. The pandemic has indeed, challenged leaders to think about how to engage and inspire their teams, specially at a time when uncertainty and constant change ruled. Share success stories, and provide clear guidance.
  • Manage safety & health  
    Using data as your guide, develop a plan to address and help solve workplace health issues  like illnesses (even mental). As you address workplace health and safety, try and have a phased-out return-to-workplace plan, by using data. Try to understand risks and safety issues that could crop up. Anticipate and plan for recurrences of stay-home measures. Also execute risk measures and controls that are specific to COVID-19, since that is top-priority now. Build a framework to manage and monitor – to help support your people’s health and safety, business continuity and new ways of working (including setting expectations for suppliers, vendors and others who come in contact with your team).
  • Re-think facilities & technology
    Reconsider how and where people work. Speed up digital adoption that can enable your employees to be more productive. Companies that had already been operating more digitally, have been able to manage better during this crisis. Training is essential to adopting new policies and guidelines, so plan training on new safety measures for the returning team. Incorporate virtual training for those who are working remotely. Expect new issues to emerge, but be prepared to address them.
  • Adapt to change 
    Build scenarios of your workforce needs in real time. Build in data-driven analyses to help reduce costs and preserve jobs when possible. Also accelerate digital and remote ways of working. Currently, many companies say they’re planning to accelerate new working practices – as part of their return-to-workplace strategy – for as you return to the workplace, you will definitely not be going back to previous ways of working. Evolve behaviours and new ways of working that make sense for your workplace.
  • Build an ‘empathic’ culture
    Be sensitive to what situations your teams are facing. So, be prepared to plan work schedules with a ‘people-first’ approach. Focus not just on physical distancing needs, but also the concerns of employees who suddenly have new responsibilities at home or have health worries. Understand team members’ needs by enhancing ‘employee listening’. Then, define and implement policies to suit employees’ constraints and comfort levels (including underlying health issues, child care, elders’ care etc). Re-evaluate performance measures, employees’ concerns and work towards developing a workforce strategy that is proactive.

Finally,
focus on the well-being of your people. Consider new or refreshed employee well-being programs to demonstrate ‘caring’; and this can help reduce the emotional, physical and mental stress of the current environment. Understand the top-of-line constraints of your workforce and go all out to help your teams work productively.  

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