With the return to offices potentially on the cards, Sign In App’s Dan Harding discusses how employers can ensure their workers feel comfortable.
Employers will soon be able to reopen offices and welcome back their employees with open arms. But while some individuals will be eager to return to the workplace and excited for face-to-face interaction with their colleagues, others will understandably want to wait a little longer before they return.
The communal space will take on a new role within the adapted hybrid working setting, so what processes can businesses take straight away to encourage all employees to experience and enjoy face-to-face collaboration and connection once again?
Put employees at the heart of the business
A recent survey uncovered that almost every individual is apprehensive about returning to work, with reservations about coming into contact with shared office devices, social distancing, cleanliness and other factors. However, just 9pc of workers expect to return to the office fully.
It’s clear that both employees and employers alike are keen to explore the opportunity of hybrid working, keeping face-to-face contact within some form of office environment – or touchdown space – at the heart of the working experience, even if only for a couple of days each month.
If companies want to get employees re-engaged with the physical workspace, they need to start planning now. Instead of waiting for the current restrictions to conclude, it’s time to spring clean the office and re-address policies by putting actions in place ahead of the anticipated return. Employers need to contemplate what steps are required to make employees feel secure, supported and motivated in the revised hybrid setting. How do they anticipate checking upon employees’ physical and mental wellbeing and intervening if necessary?
This is not about providing additional hand sanitiser or implementing one-way systems. Businesses need to actively communicate plans about how they view the revised workspace, including how and when it is used. This is about re-evaluating the office concept for the better and employer duty of care must receive the same response.
Communication is key
From breakout rooms to refreshment facilities and shared co-working spaces, employees need to feel confident that the company has a hold on social distancing guidelines. They want to understand how their employer intends to keep note of both staff and visitors on site at any time to meet contact-tracing requirements.
And they want to be able to easily collaborate with colleagues no matter their location in a truly flexible manner. These factors shouldn’t have to be overwhelming for businesses as innovative, cloud-based technology solutions that are effortless to deploy and operate hold the potential to unlock the hybrid working future.
Straightforward apps can be used to log in and out of the buildings, using contactless technology to reduce interactions. This provides a company with accurate and real-time information about every employee, visitor and contractor on site at any moment. If any individual becomes unwell or tests positive for Covid-19, the business has rapid access to the contact details of anyone who has been potentially exposed, allowing successful contact tracing and isolation.
Furthermore, technology can be used by employees to book desks in advance – with clear rules set to control capacity in every department. Communal spaces can be limited to specific volumes. Showing employees that the space is safe and controlled is a significant way to boost their confidence about returning to the premises, especially for the first time.
Prioritising staff wellbeing
Including health questionnaires is also an uncomplicated, effective method of keeping track of mental and physical wellbeing. Obviously, essential Covid-19 questions such as whether someone has a temperature or a cough will be basic requirements within communal spaces for the foreseeable future. But this system can also be used to monitor an individual’s mental wellbeing.
In addition to checking that employees are not working long hours at home – something that has raised concerns over the past few months – managers can ask their employees questions to gain a clearer understanding of how they are coping with the changing hybrid model and feedback.
Do they have ideas about how to improve the collaborative workspace? How are they managing working from home? In a working world that is in an unprecedented transition towards a hybrid environment, this data can provide businesses with meaningful insights to advise new policies and procedures that will help to safeguard employees and create a productive workforce.
It is, however, vital to keep in mind there is no one-size-fits-all solution, no standard framework for the new working environment and what will work for one business may need further process iterations for the next. But what better time is there than now to think about how the office can be changed for the better and to improve morale, collaboration and productivity via a flexible culture that works for all?
Employee expectations are changing
Not many companies are preparing to open their doors and encourage the entire workforce back to the office on day one, but many may well be shocked by the reluctance of some individuals to return too soon.
Employee expectations of the working world have changed for good so employers need to not only adapt working spaces accordingly, but also their approach to HR and duty of care.
Managing the capacity and safety helps to rebuild confidence while providing a chance to check in with each employee.
By Dan Harding
Dan Harding is the CEO of Sign In App, a technology developer that enables contactless signing in.