Working from home has become the norm for many businesses this year, but as the UK moves forward with a vaccination and hopes are high for a better year in 2021, the question of how and when to return to the office is at the front of many people’s minds.
Towards the end of the summer, the UK saw an easing of restrictions and many workers returned to the office. However, with tighter restrictions now in place and the government again advising to work from home where possible, many companies will be back to square one when it comes to a return to the office.
Once it is safe to begin implementing a return to the office, it is likely to be a gradual process. Some businesses may feel that even when the government recommendations change, it still isn’t the ideal time for them to get back to the office.
In spite of the progress we are seeing with the vaccine and the hopes of many that things can get back to ‘normal’, the reality is that many businesses won’t return to the way they were straight away, if at all.
The past year has shown us that there are many different ways of working, and many new lessons have been learnt about what people want and need in order to have a successful working environment and good quality of life.
All of these learnings can help shape how and when businesses return to an office.
Here are our top tips to help you determine when it’s time to reopen your offices, and how to facilitate your staff’s return.
Communicate with your employees
Regularly checking in with your employees should be the main thing that informs your decision on returning to the office.
Some employees may be desperate to get back to the office for a bit of normality and human interaction, while others may be more nervous or have health concerns that will make them reluctant to return.
Make sure you understand how your employees are feeling and whether their circumstances have changed. That way you can avoid putting anyone in a situation where they feel unsafe, and help your employees get back to working the way they feel the most comfortable.
Crunch the numbers
If you are currently renting a large office space, it may not be economical in the long run if you think more of your employees may work from home in the future. Although you might not always have the option to terminate your lease, if the end of the lease is coming up then it is worth considering what the best option will be for your business going forward.
You may decide to downsize to a smaller office or consider a more flexible option such as coworking or serviced offices.
While it can be really important for your employees to see each other face to face, it might not be the best idea to invite the entire workforce back to the office on one day. Keeping smaller numbers in the office can help with social distancing and, if planned correctly, still allow teams to meet face to face.
By only asking employees to come in on certain days and allowing them to work remotely on others, you’ll also be creating a more flexible work environment, which many workers seem to be craving.
Take safety measures seriously
Although many people in the UK are probably experiencing restriction fatigue at this stage, taking the necessary precautions to keep your staff safe is essential.
This includes ensuring that social distancing is implemented in the office, providing hand washing and sanitising stations and monitoring common areas that may become crowded.
Not only will putting the right measures in place help to give everyone peace of mind, it will also help to prevent the spread of and illnesses throughout your workforce.
When you’re happy that you can provide a safe environment for staff to return to, and they’re happy to do so, then it’s probably the right time to begin reopening your office. However, maintaining a degree of flexibility will be essential moving forward.
This year has shown how adaptable most businesses can be and proven that while there are perks to the traditional set up of 5 days a week in an office, a combination of office and remote work usually makes the most sense.
For some businesses, it may seem that a return to their old routines would be a step in the wrong direction. If you don’t want to return to a private office but are looking for a solution for your workforce that eases some of the challenges of home working, coworking could be the ideal solution.