As the pandemic continues, businesses across the globe are now waking up to the logistic challenges of business continuity, a need for a controlled transition back to office premises (work from office) while maintaining safety and well-being of the employees.
How can companies move back to working from offices? What are the considerations, guidelines and tools that companies can use to plan this transition? We have outlined some general guidelines that can help companies get started with planning this transition more effectively.
How can companies move back to work from office?
Implement Health Screening
First and foremost is planning for infrastructure for health screenings at the premise entrances to screen workers with a potential health issue. Companies can implement screening checklists which can cover questions to identify if an employee has travelled anywhere and if there are any symptoms indicating health issues. This can quickly help companies determine which employees are permitted to enter premises and who still need to stay at home.
Capacity planning and seating reconfiguration
Depending on the seating capacity available in the office space, companies can plan to accommodate only enough people at any given time as permitted by the physical distancing norms. To help enforce the physical distancing, companies may choose to either allow employees to use alternative seating spaces or even remove/reconfigure desks to add distance between seats. Also, flexible use spaces such as conference rooms, break out rooms or lab areas may be reconfigured to convert into designated seating areas.
Implement revised cleaning protocols
With the health concerns introduced by COVID-19, companies should implement adequate and frequent cleaning schedules and protocols. To ensure compliance with the process, companies should use either paper-based or electronic inspection checklists.
In addition to improving cleaning practices, visual indicators such as decals, health safety posters, markings will help employees in following safety practices. Communicating the employee shifts, seating assignments to the cleaning teams will help them efficiently plan their efforts. Besides, delivering the hygiene-related initiatives taken to the employees, companies can help reduce anxiety for the employees returning to the office.
Priorities the essential workers
Companies should assess and review the roles of the employees with the help of HR to prioritise which employees must return first to the office and which employees can continue working remotely for a longer duration.
Companies can develop plans for phased return of employees starting with essential employees and slowly ramping up the number of employees returning to the office. The pace of recovery to offices can be adjusted depending on the overall situation in the region considering advisories issued by health officials.
Working in Shifts
Introducing shifts can help companies stagger the number of employees that enter the premises at any given time in the day while making office space accessible to more employees. Shift arrangements can take either form of different times in the day or alternate day arrangements. Effectively planning the schedules and employees working in various shifts can also help the facilities team in planning their cleaning schedules.
Designated seating arrangements
By introducing assigned desks for employees or identifying conference rooms, break out rooms for the teams, physical distancing can be implemented efficiently as the movement of employees around the premises is traceable especially if specific employees exhibit COVID-19 symptoms. This also helps priorities sanitization efforts around the area where affected employees are seated.
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