Preparing to Return to the Workplace
Returning to the workplace after a pandemic requires proper planning and coordination across an organization to ensure that government and regulatory guidelines and requirements are met. As the crisis recedes and lockdowns are lifted, many businesses are seeing a future that may look quite different than the past.
Not only will there be a gradual return to the office, but employee health and welfare will:
- Demand refined approaches to physical distancing (including changes to where and how we work)
- Stricter hygiene and cleaning practices, and access to personal protective equipment (PPE)
- The ability to track, trace, and respond to future exposure and outbreaks
- The need for new data privacy and security protocols as organizations collect additional personal health information and continue to allow employees to work remotely
What should your teams be preparing now?
Here are suggested prerequisites to consider before re-opening the doors:
- Phased Return Plan
Develop a phased return-to-workplace protocol that is in line with local government guidance and requirements, which is critical to successfully reopen. Topics should include key messages around testing, and policies on travel, meetings, face masks, and social distancing best practices. Consider developing toolkits and investing in technologies to aid employees in implementing guidelines (such as facilities management technologies), templates to track and plan guidelines at the site level (such as staggered work shifts or increased/ permanent remote working arrangements), and changes to travel tools that take into account potential national and international restrictions.
- Strengthened Data Privacy and Security Protocol
Strengthen procedures around COVID-19 data privacy and security requirements. Since you are likely collecting data on employees that you have never collected before (e.g., body temperatures, travel history, and contact tracing details), it is important to ensure that you have proper privacy and security processes in place before you begin collecting.
- Real Time Data Tracking
Develop methods to track trends related to local conditions (e.g., new cases and mortality rates, access to testing) that will aid in determining when your sites are either eligible to move into less restrictive return-to-workplace phases or restrictions should be increased due to recurrent outbreaks. Consider the use of dashboards or investing in technology to issue and collect onsite employee/ visitor health attestations, track illness-affected employees, enable onsite employee contact tracing, and document the actions to take in the event of a positive diagnosis.
- Facilities Planning
Perform detailed site level facilities planning to redesign workspaces for sustainable physical distancing and hands free/ touchless interaction and increased cleaning/ disinfection protocols. Consider the potential of technology to assist with controlling the amount of onsite employees and visitors (such as “hot desking”/ hoteling management), placement of physical distancing signage in common areas, and the establishment of secure supply chains for required cleaning supplies and PPE to ensure that your workplace encourages safe practices and complies with capacity guidelines.
- Communications and Employee Engagement
Establish additional employee engagement communication channels including employee pandemic FAQ sites, trainings on new protocols and policies, and surveys to understand and incorporate into future planning employee views on return to work safety, working from home, and productivity into future planning. Consider enhancing work from home policies that include guidance on best practices, tips, and tricks to operate effectively in a remote environment. Develop communications and guidance for interacting with investors, suppliers, and customers, and update them on the new procedures and policies in place to protect both your business and your employees.
As restrictions are lifted and we begin to interact in closer proximity to one another, the health and safety of our employees and communities are of vital importance. Ensuring that your business is prepared to open safely and is able to protect the health and privacy of your employees and visitors is critical in establishing the trust that will enable your business to perform at its best.
Interested in learning more about managing post-pandemic risks and requirements?
Download our guidebook for a roadmap for leaders to decisively deploy actions that correspond to the shape of the future state economy, all while mitigating new and emerging cyber and operational risks.