Open for business: Getting back to the office during COVID-19

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Finding their way back to a semblance of workplace normalcy will likely be one of the biggest challenges that business and workforces will have to face in our time. If they ever hope to reintroduce office life, after having already met the logistical challenges of enabling work from home offices, businesses will now have to meet the logistical challenges of enabling a return to the office. 

Undoubtedly, this reintroduction will be different for different businesses and their employees. Some will want to orchestrate a full return to office life, while others will prefer a blended return that allows for both remote work and in-office work, and still others will establish staggered work shifts. Some people will welcome a return to working at the office and others will find it a little fearful or even prefer to continue working from home. Whatever the situation or personal feelings, businesses will have to find a way to return to their most productive level while also ensuring the health and safety of their employees. Ultimately, whether it’s a large enterprise, an SMB, a mom and pop operation, or an independent or freelance contractor, successful return will be dependent on a proactive return-to-work plan that starts with prioritizing employee health and safety.

Employee health and safety 

Prioritizing employee health and safety can take many forms. First and foremost it will require educating the workforce about proper workplace hygiene and post Covid-19 workplace protocols such as contact tracing, health screening, temperature checks, and the importance of self-regulation regarding all the recommended safe hygiene practices.

Moreover, many businesses will need to redesign their office floor plan or reconfigure workspaces so that it will be possible to continue practicing social distancing at the office. Plus, there might be additional measures such as implementing rotation work schedules, limiting the size of in-person meetings and conferences, curtailing visitor access to offices, and a host of other guidelines that will help ensure the safety of workplace personnel. 

Communication and digital collaboration

A good communication strategy will also be vital to a seamless return to work.  Good communication is essential to effective cross-departmental and cross-functional collaboration, for connecting and engaging with employees, and to maintaining workplace productivity. Of course, for allowing social distancing to continue, communication technologies such as video conferencing, SMS and messaging applications, virtual project tools, virtual workspaces, etc., will continue to play an important role in business communications and collaboration. These technologies must be agile, accessible to all employees, and able to operate in a secure digital environment. 

A secure digital environment

To be sure, ensuring a secure digital environment will take on even greater importance for businesses due to the increased and continued use of these technologies. In addition, businesses will need to protect themselves against the risks posed by reintroducing home devices used for work, such as personal laptops, tablets, USBs, etc., back into the business network. In fact, even if employees used only company-issued devices, threats can still be introduced into businesses networks if software vulnerabilities weren’t patched. The same is true for computers and devices that were left on business premises but shut off during the lockdown period, as they likely did not receive software patches and updates either. Thus, business antivirus 2020 protection will be critical to a smooth return-to-work transition. 

With that in mind, businesses would be wise to initiate or update cybersecurity planning and procedures, enforce strict password protocols, increase cybersecurity awareness training for employees, and implement an endpoint security solution to ensure antivirus and antimalware protection at all endpoints, uniform security patching, and visibility of the cybersecurity health and status of all employees.

Boosting employee confidence and trust 

Neither can organizations ignore the personal component of returning to the office. After having worked from home for months, for some people, it might feel odd to return to the office and some will probably be apprehensive about workplace changes and uncertain whether workplace safeguards for physical safety will be sufficient. In order to maintain a motivated workforce, businesses will have to allay these employee fears and boost their confidence and trust. They will have to focus on improving workplace culture by assuring employees that effective health and safety measures are in place and conveying a positive message and vision of the future.

A fruitful, not fearful return to work

As return to regular work becomes increasingly imminent for many employees, it is essential that businesses start thinking of return-to-work plans that will bring their employees back into the fold while also safeguarding their health and wellbeing. Businesses need motivated and productive employees and in order to be motivated and productive, employees need to be confident that their employers are protecting their health. Developing an effective plan that will help employees transition back to office life safely and securely is the first step in this process and the first step towards ensuring a fruitful and not a fearful return to work.