COVID-19 is still a present threat, but some places have maintained appropriate safety protocols that have allowed the restrictions to be eased. For the first time since 2020, many companies are bringing employees back into the office, returning to something close to normal.
Many people are eager to get back to work. Organizing professional, personal, and family schedules all at once while doing everything from home is no easy feat. That being said, transitions can always be difficult, and some will return to work with a mixture of fear and anxiety, concerned with the “new normal.”
The move from remote work back to the office will require physical and mental preparation. Some will adjust quickly; others will take longer to get back into the routine. Be prepared to meet your employees’ needs and your own with these tips that will help to organize the return to in-person activities.
1. Prepare for the Utility Bill
If you’ve spent the last months working from home, chances are you haven’t been paying light, heat, A/C, and energy bills for your office or retail space. Remember that when you return to the office, these costs will start to go back up again.
Not only will you be using a space you haven’t used for a while. It’s also likely that you and your employees have lost some of the habits that helped you save on energy bills. Get used to simple practices, like adopting hibernation features on all computers, switching off equipment when it’s not in use, and so on. The first bills will take some adjustment, but resuming energy-saving practices should help get them under control.
2. Review Your Insurance Policies
Moments of uncertainty always make us wish that we were more prepared, and this past year has undoubtedly demonstrated the importance of contingency plans. As a business owner, you want to be ready for all kinds of situations and issues, which is why it’s always a good idea to be up to date on the current regulations governing insurance for small businesses.
Be aware that certain policies you are obligated to carry as a small business owner may have lapsed over the last year. Or maybe your circumstances may have changed dramatically—the number of employees in your company, for example. Take some time to make sure your business is up to date with all regulations.
3. Update Your Office
To resume in-person operations, you will likely have to redesign your workplace configuration and implement new regulations to meet all safety and social distance requirements. Here are some necessary precautions to be taken:
- Require all employees to wear masks, especially when interacting with each other, with customers, attending meetings, and so on.
- Create a schedule to efficiently sanitize and disinfect all areas and surfaces in common use.
- Keep all desks and workstations at least six feet away from each other. If your office does not have sufficient space, installing partitions between employee workspaces can be a solution.
- Invest in improving the ventilation conditions of your office.
4. Ease Into It
Even if you’re already fully prepared to return to work, your employees may still not be. Uncertainty about vaccinations, safety regulations, and the future can increase anxiety for everyone, so the best way to come back is to do it step by step.
Since many people have become accustomed to remote work and the changes that come with it, you need to be patient in the beginning. Consider adopting more flexible schedules—you may even find they make your team more productive.
You can start by giving your employees staggered in-person days so that your space isn’t operating at full (or over) capacity. This will ease the transition process back into the routine of in-person work.
5. Keep the Lines of Communication Open
A year ago, the challenge many managers faced was making the transition from in-person to remote work; now, it’s the other way around. However, just like you did then, you will need to maintain open communication with your staff.
Some employees will be more concerned than others. You can reassure them by making it clear that you are adopting all the recommended Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols in your facility. Keep in touch with your team to find out what’s working and what’s not. Hold regular meetings, in person or online, to assess and review the situation.
It’s also important to be up to date on support policies to protect employees in high-risk groups. Pay special attention to employees who have fallen ill or have been exposed to COVID-19. Routine health procedures help create a safer environment (daily temperature checks, and regular tests, for example).
6. Consider Keeping Some Employees Remote
Working from home may have seemed inconvenient at first, but for some, it became an opportunity. Some employees doubt their ability to go back to work in an office and prefer the remote system.
This is a good time for you to reevaluate your company’s priorities. If you agree that some aspects of remote work have helped improve productivity in general, consider creating a hybrid work system.
Be Prepared for the New Normal
The year 2020 was atypical and forced everyone to make sacrifices and crucial changes to their routines. Although many businesses are reopening, the situation is still far from normal.
As a business owner, it’s your duty to drive this transition back to the workplace in the safest and most organized way possible. Be prepared for the challenges that will arise: scared or unmotivated employees, a team with new habits and schedules, a general climate of uncertainty, and so on.
This is a moment when truly creative and adaptive entrepreneurs will rise to the top. If you are appropriately prepared, you can be among them.