No matter what industry you’re in, one thing is clear: Shared workplaces are going to look and operate quite differently than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s not just a temporary change until we have a vaccine. The expectations of your employees, customers, clients, patients – whoever it is that walks through the front door of your building – will demand a change in the office experience forever.
Employees returning to work in full capacity will require an approach that not only keeps people safe, but that also makes people feel safe and confident.
Just 27% of respondents said that they had no reservations about returning to the office in a recent Workstat survey.
That leaves a pretty big chunk of people who do have reservations about returning to the office.
As a business whose strength is in AV communication and collaboration technology, we’ve been able to help our clients, and our own operations, to stay innovative and creative using virtual technology and hands-free operations of office technology.
But we also know that’s not the entire solution to improving safety, trust and confidence for your employees as they return to work.
We put together things to consider as you reopen your office to the entire workforce – there may be a couple of new things that you haven’t previously considered.
- Make Health Your First Priority. The safety, health and wellbeing of your employees and anyone that interacts with you at your place of business should be your main priority. Nothing else matters until your employees are protected and feel protected. Your people should see and hear your leadership loudly through your words AND actions as you make informed changes to protect them from germs and viruses so they can focus on their work.
- Guide Towards Desired Behaviors. Just like you would do for performance, make sure you celebrate positive behaviors (cleaning of their workspace, for example) and discourage the negative behaviors.
- Think Through the Worst Case. Use this moment, where we were all caught off guard, to learn and make a plan for the future. What should you do if someone in your office contracts COVID-19 after this point? Do you re-close the office? Start over? Quarantine certain individuals? The last thing you need to do is panic and be caught off guard. Your people are counting on your leadership. You’ve spent a lot of time planning new virus prevention actions in your office. But what happens in the off chance that something goes wrong?
- Be Transparent and Communicative. Empower your employees by openly communicating all of the best information you have. Nobody wants to be in the dark. Your employees understand that some business objectives or strategies might be inclusive of senior management or to just those that need to know. But health and safety of every individual trumps the goals and objectives of the business. All of your employees – top to bottom – should know the exact measures taken to improve the health and safety in your environment.
- Leverage Technology Where You Can. If a meeting doesn’t need to be in person – don’t. Sure, there’s plenty of evidence that proves face-to-face interaction improves productivity and creativity, but if you utilize the technology available in audio visual, you can maintain this same productivity and creativity virtually.
- Create One-Way Walking Paths. You see it at the restaurants you eat at and the shops you shop at. To create one-way traffic flows, place directional signage throughout lobbies, hallways, and corridors. This reduces the amount of unnecessary human-to-human contact and limits exposure to transmission of germs and viruses.
- Update your layouts. To help employees and visitors maintain a safe 6 feet apart throughout their day, reconfigure furniture in public spaces and private offices. Ensure that seating is at an appropriate distance and limit hallway interactions and any other unnecessary contact throughout the day.
You’ll notice we didn’t include anything here about social distancing, choosing to wink and smile instead of handshakes or washing your hands for 30+ seconds. Hopefully you already know the importance of continuing to follow these types of recommendations outlined by the professionals.
Safely operating in this new context will require a series of interconnected changes that will impact your physical design, services, policies, staffing practices, and more.
We hope that you’ll reach out to us with any questions around implementing improved technology in your offices, conference rooms and coworking spaces.
You can also hear about one of our COVID-19 technology success stories here, from Ball State University’s Associate Professor of Computer Information Systems.