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How to prepare your office for returning to work after COVID

Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath will be one of the biggest business challenges of our time, as most companies will have to adapt to new ways of working. 

The prime responsibility for navigating companies through the upcoming disruptions lies within the management’s hands, however, employees have a significant role to play in this as well. This article will discuss five steps that companies can take to prepare for a smooth return into the office after COVID-19. For more additional information, make sure to always keep an eye on the UK Government Guidelines on working safely. 

1. Have a clear return-to-work plan in place 

Getting employees back into the office must be a systematic and consistent process, which requires a well-thought-out-plan.

Continual use of face coverings will be required at most of the company’s facilities throughout all industries, especially within spaces where employees work in closed-up areas such as an office. Companies must ensure that thermal scanners will be available to test temperature and that the air filters will be changed regularly to allow a healthy movement throughout all buildings. Formally documenting the measures and procedures for bringing people back to the workplace is an essential first step. 

When creating this plan, business owners should look first at their provincial government’s relevant health and safety guidelines. They should also keep a close eye on local pandemic-related statistics tools to see if any specific health and safety measures are required in their communities. Remember that industries have different and unique requirements, but don’t forget to ask your employees what they would like to see in the return-to-work plan. Employees could have excellent ideas that might have not even been considered previously, so their input can quickly help a business get a sense of the measures they will want to see and make them feel comfortable enough to return to work in the office without problems. 

2. Have clear plans for re-exist

Along with having clear guidelines for when and how to bring employees back to the office, it is necessary to have re-existing policies in place to avoid any unforeseen and extreme disruptions.

For example, companies could reopen their business in phases, starting with 10% to 15% of people coming back into the office. This way, it is much easier to pause or reverse the work-comeback if the situation changes once again. In the early phases of reentry, business owners could even solicit volunteers who have expressed a desire to return to the office. A phased approach can allow companies to obtain real-time feedback from employees about new office procedures. Ultimately, this will also greatly help to inform decisions for the broader return-to-office-plans. 

3. Employees must embrace change

Without employee’s input, even the best-crafted plans are likely to run into trouble. 

Management teams will have to lead their teams with empathy and demonstrate an understanding that whilst all their employees have experienced this crisis, they’ve all experienced it differently. Some of your employees might have health conditions that increase their risk of severe COVID-19 infection, a reason why they might be quite reluctant to return to work. Others may be keen to leave remote work behind, but they still have responsibilities that make it difficult for them to come back. 

It is vital to acknowledge that workforces will need time to adapt to new ways of working post-pandemic. Maybe some employees that will come back to work after an extended period of remote work or furlough may find the physical layout of their workplace itself to be too altered. In essence, for office workers, returning to a workplace may require a mindset shift, especially for those too adjusted to remote work. To navigate these challenges, management should make sure that their employees understand what’s being asked from them straight from the beginning and what steps the company should take to protect everyone’s health and wellbeing. Luckily, with the recent advancements in IT infrastructure and digital collaboration tools, many employees of the 2020s will expect more flexibility moving forward, which will allow them to adapt to new situations easier. 

Creating more flexible and collaborative work environments to enable innovation will empower and support employees. Knowing how to prepare employees for change in the workplace is crucial as if done correctly, it can significantly increase employee retention whilst attracting new talent. The key is to leverage our learnings from the pandemic to our advantage. 

4. Have clear communication 

Additionally, having a clear and well-thought-out plan for returning to the office, companies must articulate the details of that plan to employees in ways that everyone can clearly understand. 

Once the plan is set, it is crucial to make it clear that it is non-negotiable. The core principles and policies of the return-to-work plan will need regular and consistent reinforcement. Doing so will shape people’s everyday work tasks and routines, and recognising the people who follow them well will help motivate the other teams. An essential part of the communication process within a company is for management and employees not to hesitate to issue stern reminders if people are trying to get around the workplace rules. Not all employees will be ready or eager to come back to the office, so business owners should take a step back to understand what might be causing their reluctance. They should also provide employees with the chance to make their challenges and concerns know. 

By enabling two-way communication, leaders may turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to strengthen their corporate culture, increase employee engagement, and boost productivity and loyalty altogether. 

5. Sanitation and safety 

Health and safety in the workplace must be management’s top priority, as it considers how to bring the business back to some semblance of normal. 

New protocols for deep cleaning and sanitisation may be needed, as well as workplace layout changes, meaning that moving workstations farther apart or changing employee schedules to reduce the numbers of people in buildings at one time might be necessary moving forward. According to the government’s guidelines, workspaces must be immediately cleaned and disinfected once they’ve been populated to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 or any other potential infections. Cleaning workspaces should always start from the cleanest area to not spread the dirty spots that are less soiled. 

Any workspace needs a deep cleaning, especially if there has been a potential risk of contact with someone with COVID-19. In line with the most current health and safety guidelines in the workplace in the UK, the following settings require deep cleaning: 

  • Offices
  • Other workplace areas
  • Waiting rooms 
  • Communal kitchens 
  • Hallways 
  • Receptions
  • Bathrooms 

We have several articles with plenty of information and tips to help your business prepare for the work comeback after COVID-19, such as how to sanitize your office supplies.

However, professional office cleaners can improve an office by making it more pleasant and comfortable to work in, translating into happier and healthier employees and ultimately more satisfied customers. Check out our blogs on why should you hire a professional cleaning service and 5 questions to ask before hiring a professional cleaning service to find out more! 

At Ace Cleaning, we work with clients and businesses of all sizes to maintain a clean and safe office during these challenging times, and we know what actions must be taken so that companies can be better prepared to adjust to the changing circumstances yet to come. If you require office cleaning services in Leicester or across the Midlands, contact us today for your FREE evaluation. 

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