The post-COVID era is strewn with abundant challenges for organizations. As the new normal begins and leaders craft strategies to return to the workplace, they must strike a delicate balance between resuming standard practices on the one hand and embracing the realities of a transformed workplace on the other.
Leaders need to build a definitive workflow with an aim to keep employees safe, informed, productive and aligned throughout their journey back to the office.
Moreover, to maintain social distancing at work, it is imperative to redesign the workplaces and manage office real-estate to avoid close contact between employees. Additionally, organizations must deploy mechanisms to conduct health-checks and control the inflow of employees into the workplace.
And all this needs to be done while maintaining operational continuity, devising new ways of communication and collaboration, ensuring productivity and preparing for the future workplace – one which involves distributed teams.
To gain better insight, let’s explore the key obstacles to making a successful comeback and what organizations must do to smoothen the transition.
5 Key Return-to-Workplace Challenges
1. Planning The Workplace Physical Safety
Planning for employee safety is the first step in the return-to-workplace journey. To safeguard employee health, organizations must manage the flow in and out of the office in a responsible manner. They also need to reconfigure workplaces to prevent any close physical contact between employees.
HR leaders need to develop new safety and health policies to be followed at the workplace. Real estate, facilities management and HR executives need to collaborate to plan seat allocation and floor plans
As social distancing will be a workplace reality, at least for the near future, leaders need to decide whether they shall reopen all facilities or develop a staggered plan.
Needless to say, this planning takes a lot of effort and brainstorming. And without standardized procedures in place, implementation gets tricky.
The Return-to-Workplace App can be deployed within 1-2 weeks and helps in building a definitive workflow for a safe workplace re-entry by facilitating:
- Office slot booking
- Seat allocation
- Employee health-checks
- Tracking employee attendance
- Visitor Management
2. Preparing Employees To Return To Office
Once leaders have developed a return-to-workplace plan, it’s time to effectively communicate it to employees and prepare them to return to office. Over communication of physical safety at the workplace is imperative. HR leaders need to ensure that employees feel safe about getting back to office and their queries are addressed.
Employees have to be informed about a lot of things – social distancing norms, safety practices, new corporate policies and workplace guidelines.
Some of our clients are using our Crisis Management App built with Microsoft Power Apps to keep employees informed and engaged. The app lets leaders broadcast communications, push essential updates and inform latest company news.
3. Managing The Return-To-Workplace
Once the return-to-workplace begins, leaders need to manage various ongoing activities to ensure workplace physical safety. Besides ensuring measures for social distancing at the workplace are in place, employers also need to –
- Gauge employee sentiment by asking questions about their health and safety concerns
- Regularly screen employees and visitors at entry points for plausible symptoms
- Track the inventory of safety gear, such as face masks and PPE kits
- Monitor employees’ usage of safety gear
Carry out contact tracing to identify employees who may have been in physical proximity with an affected co-worker – which helps curb the transmission of the virus.
Our Return-to-Workplace app ensures employee safety with:
(i) Remote employee health checks
(ii) Safety gear detection
(iii) Contact tracing
The app provides an analytics dashboard to monitor the situation in the company’s offices across the globe. Moreover, it is integrated with a crisis FAQ chatbot that instantly gives answers to frequently asked queries.
4. Ensuring Collaboration and Productivity
In the new normal, most organizations shall function on a hybrid working model in which a part of the workforce returns to the office, while the rest works from home. A recent survey by Gartner has revealed, “41% of employees are more likely to work remotely at least some of the time post-pandemic”. Hence, leaders need to rethink how works get done in the organization while ensuring there is no loss of productivity.
An integrated digital workplace platform must be adopted which acts as a one-stop-shop for employees to communicate, collaborate, and search and share information.
At Acuvate, we’re enabling clients to collaborate and communicate effectively through our autonomous intranet solution, Mesh 3.0.
With Mesh, organizations can:
- Deliver personalized updates and content to employees, depending on their role, interests, projects and region.
- Connect different business apps together and provide a single platform to work
- Get a smart search engine to access information across apps
- Get a range of collaboration and communication tools including blogs, workspaces, document sharing systems, video conferencing tools,wiki pages, and more!
5. Building opportunities for informal connects
As the workforce utilizes a hybrid working model and employees remain mostly isolated, employers need to provide them with an outlet to connect with peers, discuss ideas, and stay updated on the latest news.
Leaders need to replicate the regular office water cooler concept virtually to enable employees to stay social and innovate. Such opportunities to connect and share ideas are fundamental to enhancing employee engagement.
In this respect, our AI-based SharePoint intranet, Mesh 3.0 is designed to create a virtual water-cooler experience by allowing employees to collaborate through idea management tools, discussion forums, blogs, and dedicated team sites.
A Return To Workplace Checklist For HR Leaders
Planning and managing a successful return to the workplace experience requires cross functional collaboration which includes HR, IT, Facilities Management, and Real Estate. Leaders can take a three-pronged approach to execute the reopen:
- Plan the reopen
- Manage the return-to-workplace
- Prepare for the future workplace
Tools like return to workplace app, crisis management app and FAQ chatbots are essential to ensure constant communication with employees, maintain physical distancing at the workplace and most importantly to ensure everyone is following a common workflow.
Leaders must embrace modern digital workplace tools to enable workers to collaborate and communicate effectively in both office or remote working environments.
- Return To Workplace Strategy: 4 Key Considerations You Should Know
- How to Support Your Remote Workforce With HR Digital Assistants
- Leverage Microsoft Power Virtual Agents To Accelerate Your Crisis Response
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, please feel free to get in touch with one of our digital workplace consultants for a personalized consultation.