Most of us probably thought that the pandemic would probably last some months or maybe a year. Two years later, non-essential businesses have finally brought staff back or are making plans to do it. The challenges to creating a safe and effective post-pandemic workplace are unique to the company, its physical space and the type of work.
Some likely will find that there is no one-size-fits-all solution even for smaller businesses, and it’s more complex when navigating this return in spaces located in different markets. Important factors include:
- Work format: It’s hard to predict the future, so many have found that the hybrid approach is a great way to transition back to the office. It lets staff get acclimated to working in person again. Yet, it also enables businesses to be agile enough to respond to health trends, government mandates and recommendations, and the health of individuals who may be immune-compromised or caring for those who are. The goal should be to make sure everyone is productive and safe, which may mean new office layouts, staggered shifts, rotating weeks and other safety measures.
- Digital workplace: While larger companies may have embraced online interaction because the staff is spread across different offices, many in smaller organizations have become comfortable or at least used to holding meetings via Zoom or another video platform. These changes will likely continue as we face each new phase of the pandemic.
- Stay up to date: Local, state and federal mandates will vary, so owners and leaders will need to stay on top of rules, the changing of rules, or the lifting of regulations. Legal counsel may provide some guidance compliance. They can also update employee handbooks and provide guidance on employer and employee rights during this uncertainty.
- Travel: Businesses may find that staff no longer need to travel as much as they did for work. They may also want to limit staff travel to reduce the likelihood of spreading illness among the staff.
- Recall procedures: Businesses need to create an organized and controlled approach that does not violate anti-discrimination laws, lead to litigation or create labor issues. Employers should also create a plan that specifically addresses the needs of employees in high-risk categories.
- Communication: This has likely already happened, but businesses need to establish clear lines of communication to function as a business and address the needs of the employees, particularly as circumstances change.
- Training: We’ve all become old hands at dealing with this, but training will likely be necessary to institute policy changes and keep staff safe.
Flexibility is the key
Many have already found that returning to shops, offices, buildings, and campuses involves more than simply flipping a switch to turn on the lights. Some changes employed during a shutdown may remain in place because they work. Others may fade over time as we move toward the new normal. Other plans will need to be adjusted to address the issue better.