Reopening offices for the third time

We should be old hands at reopening our workspaces, but it's worth thinking about how to do this really well after the latest lockdown.

Reopening offices for the third time

We should be old hands at reopening our workspaces, but it’s worth thinking about how to do this really well after the latest lockdown. 

Here are a few ideas to get your plans started:

Who do I want back, when?

One way to answer this question is to be very relaxed, and let people set their own timelines and schedules. This may well set some unintended consequences.

You may find your office is suddenly full of the extroverts who have missed social interaction, the young who haven’t enjoyed working without support or from poor working environments and those without kids, who haven’t suffered months of home-schooling fatigue.

This would certainly skew the interactions of those back in the office, and you could easily miss the more experienced, manager-level people who could be most valuable in setting the tone and expectations for working back together again. 

It may be worth considering a more strategic and better organised, phased return to work. Managers first, taking the opportunity of checking in with them, seeing how they are, and reconfirming the vision and the values of the business. Helping them understand their role in bringing everyone back to the office on equal footings. Then perhaps whole teams at a time, as good safety provisions allow. If everyone has to come back for some set meetings here and there, you will be inclusive, and ensure that you have both managers and those needing support in the building at the same time.  

Flexibility and working patterns

Throughout this pandemic we have advised business owners not to leap into agreeing permanent changes to terms and conditions, meaning people can work at home forever without due care and reflection. For some roles it may well work long term, but for others a blended approach may work the best ‘ making the most of both worlds, the option for face to face interaction in the office and the privacy and quiet of working from home.

If we ensure that we keep organisational productivity rather than individual productivity at the heart of our decision making, we will make better decisions for the organisation as a whole. We have had the opportunity for a great, widespread working from home experiment, and the time is coming where we can make it work best for businesses and best for individuals in a balanced way. 

Testing, and H&S issues

The Government has recently rolled out lateral flow testing to organisations with over 50 staff, meaning many more companies are going to have access to quick Covid test results. That, plus the ongoing vaccination programme, generally falling rates and ongoing care around distancing, masks and sanitising are all going to help maintain healthier workplaces.

Many companies will simply be able to update policies from last time around, but perhaps the challenge now is going to be around keeping the rules as people feel more relaxed. It it will be worth thinking about creative ways to draw attention to health and safety, linking them to the company’s values, and how to put colleagues first. 

A re-onboarding system that works

We have learnt lots of new language through the pandemic, and re-onboarding is one of the new ones! We often talk about an induction post sabbatical or maternity leave, as for some coming back into the office can be daunting, particularly to the young or those with less job-confidence.

It is a great opportunity to remind everyone what the office workspace is for, how we can best work together and support each other, our company values and what we are likely to see and hear when they are in action.

Doing something interesting and different to welcome people back could also bring a bit of a buzz into the air, after all, we will have gone a long time without seeing each other. It may be gift baskets on tables, a new look office, or simply welcome back cards on each desk. What can you do to make your team feel valued as they return?

The thought of the economy and workspaces opening up again is so exciting ‘ how can you plan for it, and capture the moment so that coming back to work isn’t about a dull commute and a dreary day in the office, but it is about team spirit, celebrating a new day at work and being together working towards the company vision again?

Ally Maughan
Ally Maughan

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