22 Apr 2020
Thoughts on getting back to the “New Normal” office environment
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Getting your workforce back to the office
Depending on the markets you are operating in, there might have come some cautiously optimistic signals from the government during the last few days. Based on the current dynamic of the COVID-19 pandemic, these statements included possible roadmaps towards what many call “the new normal”. Build on many discussions with business leaders, we provide you with some points to consider the upcoming transition to regular business operations.
Internal communication strategies
A key factor of keeping your team members motivated during the phase of the transition period will be the empathy and coherence of your communication. Be aware of when and how you tell your employees about your strategies and plans for the transition phase. Of course, you should update them often and be quick in action.
Your employees must know and feel that you do everything to improve the situation as soon as possible.
However, sharing a concrete roadmap too early in the development stage could fuel expectations that you might not be able to meet. Hence, make sure your leadership communication strategy reflects this responsible balance, and its presentation is well-coordinated among all management levels.
Health measures for the workspace
The first challenge will be where to start in the re-population of your office spaces. Most experts agree that it makes sense to first start with those employees whose physical presence is most needed. However, corresponding health measures all have to be put in place beforehand. This means an action plan for hygienic aspects like the provision of quality face masks, enough sanitizers, maybe providing a possibility for temperature measurement and inevitably an enhanced cleaning routine for ensuring the most disinfected working environment possible. The plan should also include reconsidering the room- and floor-concepts to avoid crowded open office spaces.
A key premise will be to ensure a bigger physical distance between employees.
Closely associated with workspace strategies is the consideration of the concept of working in shifts. In the first step, all team leaders could create a list in which they categorize the need for physical presence at the office for each member of their team. These lists are given to a central team bestowed with the coordination and implementation of work shift plans. The resulting strategy also should cover aspects like shifted arrival, lunchtime, and coffee breaks, as well as on-site meeting practice.
Certain fixed groups of people could be selected to populate the office for one or two weeks, followed by the next group for the following one or two weeks and so forth.
But it does not need to stop there. It is worth pondering if the traditional concept of going to the office all day every day is still necessary for every employee. Already before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were many companies that give their employees a variety of options. In some parts of the software industry, for example, working from home is quite the norm, and meetings in the office are often scheduled appointments.
Considering the suggestions above, you are on your way to finding the right action plan to move forward. None of us has been in this situation before. So, you might hit some bumps in the road to a solution that works for your company. Key will be a comprehensive awareness of what “the new normal” could mean for your team and company. In consequence, this should lead to some concrete and smart solutions in areas like workspace health and workforce management. Meanwhile, communicating those steps with a special sense of empathy and timing to your employees as well as to your customers and stakeholders.