Do you need to return to your office? If so, is everyone coming back and why?
Many of our clients are finding that remote and hybrid schedules work fine. Actually, better than fine. They feel their productivity is the same if not higher than it was before and their employees are happier. Many are not renewing leases or they are moving into smaller workspaces. It’s environmentally-friendly and saves employees money in gasoline and gives them more time in the day.
If returning to the office is part of your company’s game plan, here are some things you’ll want to consider.
Two years into the pandemic, workplaces continue to be shaped in many new ways.
As more and more businesses reopen, most teleworkers say they are working from home by choice, according to new data from Pew Research. This marks a considerable shift from 2020 when remote work quickly became a necessity as the COVID pandemic surged. Fewer employees (42% now vs. 57% in 2020) cite concerns about being exposed to the coronavirus as a major reason for working from home.
On-site and hybrid workers have some lingering concerns.
The majority of U.S. workers (60%) do not have jobs that can be done from home, and even those who can work remotely are now venturing into their workplaces at least occasionally. For a large portion of these workers, their jobs continue to involve some in-person interaction with others. These employees still report being very (19%) or somewhat (32%) concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus, and employers must be sensitive to this apprehension.
COVID health concerns are giving way to a new kind of work environment.
The worksites employees return to are not the same places they left two years ago. Workflows have evolved, expectations have changed, and teams may look vastly different. The onsite workday might look different as well, complete with rotating residents and floating desks that have no assigned occupant.
If your business is planning a return to the office in the near future, even if it’s on a limited basis, there are some important considerations:
- How will you responsibly cope with COVID? It’s apparent that COVID isn’t going to vanish completely anytime soon, and that means robust safety measures will need to be implemented. We are now equipped with new insights about how to respond when COVID cases surge and that valuable information should be utilized to its fullest. Will vaccination and/or boosters be required for return to work onsite? Will masks be required throughout the office, in common spaces, or not at all? Will onsite testing be made available? What will be the policy for workers who become infected with COVID? Jefferies Financial Group, for example, requires everyone to be fully vaccinated and have received a booster to enter the office, and it mandates masks in common areas.
- Devise a backup plan. There appears to be cause for optimism but we’ve learned before that if a new COVID variant crops up, policies and reopening plans may need to be adjusted. Many companies have been forced to postpone their reopening plans multiple times because of the Delta and Omicron variants. As you create re-entry plans and protocols, take time to craft a contingency plan in the event of an unforeseen health emergency.
- Build in flexibility. For workers struggling to prepare for the office—especially those with caregiving responsibilities or children too young to be vaccinated—the return to the office may feel daunting and premature. And if people are not given some discretion about where they will work, there’s a very real chance that they may leave for a more accommodating culture. BNY Mellon, for example, is allowing managers to determine which days employees will be in the office each week rather than assigning a specific day or set number of days per week.
- Allow time for readjustment. The office experience will likely feel unfamiliar until people become reacquainted with a face-to-face setting. For many remote workers, productivity soared in the pandemic because the workday had fewer boundaries. Productivity expectations may need to be adjusted as workers relearn how to do basic things, including interacting with one another. People will have to remember how to go back to what was once their everyday experience. As workers transition back to the office, take time to check in and keep their wellbeing a top priority.
It will likely be some time before a full-fledged return to the office takes place. As the beginnings of reopening emerge, businesses are learning and shifting. Hopefully, we can ultimately create a better, more evolved office environment than what existed pre-COVID.
Is your workplace planning to reopen its doors? The HR Team is here to offer valuable insights to facilitate your efforts and protect the wellbeing of your workers. Please contact our knowledgeable professionals to learn more.
About The HR Team: Founded in 1996, The HR Team is a Maryland-based human resources outsourcing firm committed to developing strategic, customized solutions that respond to the unique needs and cultures of organizations of all types and sizes. Available as a one-source alternative to an in-house HR department or on an à la carte project basis, the company’s flexible service models address the full spectrum of HR needs that many organizations struggle to address. The HR Team helps clients achieve their highest level of success by providing value-driven human resources services that leave them time to focus on what they do best: directing business growth and profitability. Headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, the firm serves all of Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia. To learn more about The HR Team, call 410.381.9700 or visit https://www.thehrteam.com/.