Planning for a Successful Return to Work

It’s time to Shake Up How We’re Tackling COVID.
6 months into COVID restrictions in Australia it’s can be beginning to feel like there is no end in sight. Whilst many businesses worked hard to ensure a successful return to work, we’ve found ourselves pulling back out of the workplace again to stop the spread and protect our teams and communities, and even mandated to do so in Victoria.

The effects of COVID are going to be lasting, and our workplaces will need to reflect this. We cannot, and we should not, expect a normal return to work following such upheaval. The good news is there are steps that we can take to not only minimize the risk of a third wave but find the silver lining in making necessary changes to our facilities that complement our overall business objectives.
The New Era

1. Determine if a physical workspace still suits your business and it’s purpose.

In the early days of the first COVID lockdown many of us scrambled to determine how we could get our teams working from home quickly, how we would maintain communication and community, how we would stay connected and productive, and all without sacrificing our mental health. So many businesses who had resisted the Work from Home model, yet overnight our systems were turned on their heads as we found strategies and solutions to maintain our teams and business communities whilst working in isolation from each other.

As things have calmed many have asked the question – why return? And it is not a question that should be ignored. The answer will be different for most businesses, and there are a few areas you need to consider:

Branding & Company Culture If brand is the outward manifestation of a companies values, beliefs and goals are you are able to instill and reinforce these to your employees without a physical workforce? We all know the importance of retaining high performing employees, but what about the importance of brand loyalty to employees, as well as clients? Similarly the importance of friendships and support in the work environment, and their overall affect on company culture, should not be dismissed.

Collaboration & Productivity Consider your workforce, their purpose and work activities. Are there risks of silo’s in a working from home arrangement? Does the practical work of some roles demand a physical presence, where others working from home is entirely possible? Where some thrive working from home and through telecommuting many need the convenience of spontaneous and as-it-happens person to person engagement to be able to collaborate effectively.

Training, Monitoring & Safety What kind of training do you need to give new starters, what kind of ongoing training do you provide to your team, and how often? With workplace liability extending to the physical home do you have comfortability around your checks and systems to protect your staff and your business? How are you checking in with your team holistically and ensuring their physical safety and wellbeing?

2. Plan your Return to Work with Purpose

COVID in the age of the internet has meant an inundation of information, often contradictive and overwhelming in nature which can be difficult to navigate in the current ever-changing climate. Ever-changing requirements and regulations are being mandated by government as they adapt to an evolving situation and it can be hard to see through the flow of information what is important, what is needed and the best next steps. Before trying to navigate this (which we’ll talk through below) talk you to your teams and find out what works for them. A survey, open table round chat or even a simple email asking for feedback can help you understand what your people feel and how to maximise their working experience for the betterment of your business and culture. If you’ve already identified that a physical workspace is what is required to you, bring your team along for the journey as you plan the eventual return to work and design a potential WFH integration model that suits.

41% of employees are afraid to return to work.

PandemicX Survey

Tomorrows Workplace Today – Return with Purpose

Intact Group’s comprehensive workplace review programme Tomorrow’s Workplace Today is designed as a deep dive into your facilities that considers not just the compliance needs for a return to work, but your overall business goals. If you’ve made the call to maintain a physical office, there are ways to make the most of the COVID Return to work. When it comes to reviewing your current workspace, there are not only areas to be identified for improvement or changes needed, but opportunities to make purpose lead changes and improvements to your facilities.

There are going to be unavoidable costs with making the necessary changes to ensure your workspaces are ready for a safe return to work, however by taking a step back and considering your overall company goals you can make cost-effective changes to your workspace that will tackle the return to work requirements without additional costs.

3. Future Proof your Facility

By creating an environment your team wants to work from, instead of needing to work from, you can remove silo’s that have crept between teams throughout the working from home period and regain the benefit of cross functionality, without having to ‘force’ a return to work.

Maintain Employee Experience
It is important to identify and understand what works best for each individual workforce and how our office space can start working as an asset, rather than a liability. Organisations like Google, Facebook and Amazon are renowned for having innovative and engaging workspaces that make them enviable places to work at. They also have Silicon Valley budgets! The good news is you don’t necessarily need a ping-pong table, bowling alley or yoga room to make your workspace a place people don’t just want to be in but allow them to thrive within. Simple ongoing maintenance and gradual cost-effective improvements can lead to lasting and effective change for businesses. Scheduled maintenance helps ensure that not only is your brand protected but demonstrates to your employees that you value them and want to provide them with a workspace they can be proud of. Being house proud is not restricted to the home! A water cooler chat doesn’t get very far when the water cooler isn’t working any more.

Protect your Spaces

If you’re making the decision to maintain a physical workspace make sure you’re doing all you can to protect your teams and protect your business by comprehensively sanitizing your facilities. There is cleaning, and then there is sanitization. Cleaning works by removing existing bacteria and viruses from surfaces as a reactive measure. Sanitization barrier protectants such as Zoono, however, instead coat surfaces with an active microbial barrier which continue disinfecting surfaces for up to thirty days. This means that if a surface received bacteria or viruses from touch or airborne transmission, instead of that bacteria being alive and transferable to someone else upon touch, the virus is killed instantly by the barrier protectant. Instead of having to repeatedly sanitize and disinfect surfaces to kill viruses that may have been sitting exposed on those surfaces, the virus is killed the moment it hits it. The benefit of barrier treatments go far beyond Coronavirus. Australian business loses $7 billion dollars each year in absenteeism, with each case of flu on average leading to forty eight hours lost for every instance and 40% of Aussie employees believing that better hygiene would lead to greater job satisfaction.

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