Return of the Workforce: Six Ways You Can Prepare Your Workplace for the New Normal

With the Covid-19 curve flattening in many countries, organizations across the world are bracing themselves for the next challenge – preparing their workforce to return safely to work. Even though organizations are not looking at the entire workforce coming back to work, it is expected that 50-60% of the workforce would come into work while the rest work remotely.

Despite limited operating capacities, organizations need to plan ahead to cover all bases, to anticipate and avoid predictable, as well as unforeseen challenges during this phase. This involves everything from understanding employee readiness, disinfecting workspaces, to setting up Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for issuing Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) for employees, running cafeterias and other common facilities, and asset delivery methods for remote employees.

In this blog, we will explore the current state of remote work, how organizations can effectively manage ground and remote teams, and how employers can offer employees the necessary support to ensure business continuity. 

The New Normal

A common assumption is that organizations will increasingly shift to a hybrid working model when it comes to managing their workforce. At least till the end of this year, the workforce in any organization would be split into two groups: a portion of them would be coming to the workspace, whereas the other half would continue to work from home. 

This presents a unique challenge for organizations as they will have to cater to the needs of and provide assistance for both these groups of employees without compromising the quality of resolution, speed, and time, because, in the long run, employee experience decides employees’ future with a company. At the end of the day, employee experience has a direct correlation with the customer experience. 

So, despite this being a difficult time, providing outstanding employee experience will have a positive impact on your business. While fortunately, working conditions never have been tested at this scale in a long time, this period offers a great opportunity for employers to show how much employees and customers are valued, and for the employers themselves to gauge their own state of readiness and agility to weather similar challenges.

Below are six strategies organizations can follow in order to welcome their employees back to work and win the trust of customers and employees. 

Measure Employee Readiness

The first step in reopening the workplace is to measure employee readiness. Approach this as you would when launching a new product. Start small. Curate a short list of employees who are low-risk individuals and critical. These could include those who live close to work, living alone (not taking single lives for granted!) – people who aren’t living with elderly people or newborns. They can be the first set of employees to come back to work. Based on their observation and feedback, you can further refine the list. This will help you safely open your doors for more employees.

Another great place to start is an internal survey that would reveal what percentage of your workforce is willing to come back to the office. Understand when they would be comfortable to come back to work, what amenities would they want when they come back, and how long do they want the option of working from home. 

This will help you understand the mindset of your employees and allocate them the necessary resources.

SOPs for everything under the roof

After gauging employee readiness, a good next step would be to revisit all Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that exist in your organization. If there are no SOPs, create one. This would include everything from the way you physically allow employees into the workplace to how you operate the cafeteria, revisiting floor plans and seating arrangements, regularly and visibly sanitizing meeting rooms and common areas, etc. Prominent displays of these SOPs will assure employees that they’re safe at work. 

Also, while revising your SOPs, please keep in mind that employee safety and social distancing should be your top priority.

Form a Remote Support Squad

One of the biggest challenges of reopening workplaces is that internal IT support will have to give adequate support to in-house and remote teams. But, truth be told, remote teams need immediate attention over in-house teams when it comes to technical issues. This is because remote employees are isolated and they are entirely dependent on their technology stack to communicate with the rest of the team and be productive.

One way to solve this would be to create a custom SLA for requests coming from remote employees. This SLA can be a little shorter than traditional SLA timelines. You can also set up a dedicated team, a “Remote Support Squad” that will work only on requests from remote employees.

If using tools like Freshservice, you can also set up dedicated workflows to route tickets from remote employees to this “Remote Support Squad.” 

Restrict Walk-ins to the IT bay

Avoiding crowds and gatherings in workplaces should be a standard practice, at least during the initial phase of the reopening.

The IT bay is one of the spaces people constantly walk-in for help. This can be avoided if requesters were given specific time slots for them to walk up to the IT bay. Requesters, if they need in-person support from the IT team, can book time slots through a self-service portal and walk up to the IT bay at the allotted time.

PPEs on the house!

Issuing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) allows organizations to ensure the safety of all employees working from the office. Employers can manage the inventory of all the PPE to ensure they have sufficient protective gear for the next couple of months. If you’re using Freshservice, you can manage your PPE inventory using our asset management module

Periodic health checkups

An added layer of security would be to have weekly health checkups and screening camps to track the health of your employees. They can either take a self-assessment test or you can arrange for an on-call primary care crew to run this screening camp. 

Similarly, you can also conduct online camps and clinics to keep a check on the mental health of your employees, both remote and on the premises. Working from home during the lockdown can add immense stress for remote employees, and a guided program to help them destress would be invaluable. 

With the COVID-19 crisis still looming over us, it is challenging for organizations to run their day-to-day operations. Even though reopening workspaces is pushing us to completely rewrite everything we know about infrastructure management, with the right planning and the right tools, you can open your doors for your employees and also continue to run your business smoothly. 

Cover Design by Nidhi Shah