As we surpass the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines are finally becoming available. While we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel during this challenging time, it raises some questions for the workplace. Many team members are eager to return to the office and regain a sense of normalcy, but what will a vaccinated office look like? As much as the world would like to return to normal, we are facing a new normal, and things will never be exactly how they were. Offices of the new normal will be facing new challenges, juggling health and safety protocols with daily business operations. To prepare your company to return to the office, we will discuss what a vaccinated office may look like and how you can ready yourself for it.
The health and safety of your organization’s team members should be your first priority. Not only is this crucial from a moral and ethical standpoint, but also from a business standpoint. Safeguarding the wellbeing of your team members is vital as, without them, there is no business. While it's likely that most team members will be vaccinated, there are still new protocols to follow. You may be required to regularly sanitize shared surfaces and spaces, comply with capacity regulations, and even social distance. It is also possible that you may need to reorganize the layout of your office to ensure social distancing. You should refer to federal, state, and local orders as restrictions are eased to ensure that you remain compliant and do not disrupt your operations further. Some regulations may not be relaxed in unison, so it's essential to be aware and have various scenarios based on orders accordingly.
Some companies may wish to establish their own guidelines regarding safety equipment. This could mean requiring face masks, gloves, or even checking team member’s temperatures as they enter the office. If you choose to establish this, have equipment on hand to provide if necessary. This raises the question of masks in the office – are they still required? For this, refer to your local orders. Suppose vaccinated individuals are no longer mandated to wear masks. In that case, you can make this decision for your office, but ensure that team members are aware and comfortable with what is decided. Additionally, you should establish a protocol for when team members can return to work after infection to ensure that there is no confusion.
Social Distancing Solutions
Social distancing is something that we have all come accustomed to, and it may not go away just because we are vaccinated. Creating a socially distanced workplace will be crucial in offices from now on. The most obvious solution would be to push desks further apart from each other, but this isn’t always feasible for a cohesive office space. For small office spaces, this may be challenging to achieve, but there are a few solutions for you to choose from. A great tool to achieve social distancing is hot desking. With hot-desking software, you can upload the layout of your office and provide team members access to book desks. Management will have the ability to set capacity caps and block off specific desks and rooms, ensuring that regulations are followed and obeyed. This tool is instrumental in distancing team members without changing the physical layout of your office. With hot-desking, team members can choose their desk each day based on their preferences. While an excellent solution, hygiene concerns may be raised when sharing desk spaces. To combat this concern, establish sanitization protocols where team members must clean surfaces before and after use to ensure a clean and safe environment for all.
Coinciding with hot-desking is an activity-based workplace. This work style allows team members to choose from various desk settings to work in according to their activities on a given day. Should an individual need to work on a project that requires focus and concentration, they may choose to sit in a quiet and private area. Alternatively, should someone work on a creative activity that requires brainstorming and collaboration, they may want to work in an open area near others. Whatever an individual’s preference, activity-based work cultivates productivity and reduces stress. So how does this tie into hot desking? Hot desking easily allows team members to book these desks on a given day, and it doesn’t need to be done in advance. This enables team members to choose a work setting best suited to their needs and keeps them safe and distanced.
Another excellent solution for social distancing is hybrid work. This work style allows for team members to either work remotely or in-office. Hybrid work is excellent in accommodating both workplace capacity and team member preference. By allowing some team members to work from home, you are alleviating capacity in the physical office, making it easier for those in-office to distance themselves. Additionally, this may be preferred by some team members, whether it be for health reasons or they have found themselves to be more productive working from home. It is also beneficial to have this work style implemented because should individuals be exposed to the virus or feel uncomfortable in the office, they can easily transition into remote work with no delay or issue. One step further than hybrid work as a whole is to implement the hybrid work week. Many team members fear that if they choose to work remotely, they will never be allowed to return to the office or vice versa. With a hybrid work week, team members can alternate between remote and in-office throughout the week. Individuals can choose how many days a week to come in-office or work remotely, catering their workspace to the activities they need to complete. This solution offers the perfect balance of flexibility for team members, allowing them to cater their workspace to their needs and preferences while enabling a safe office space for all.
Be Flexible & Accommodating
We are living in an unprecedented time, and the future is unpredictable. There is no instruction manual about how we are supposed to return to work and recover from a worldwide pandemic. It is important to remember as you make these changes that we are all on the same team and learning together. Regulations aside, the pandemic has made us more aware of the spread of germs and changed our perspective on shared spaces. It’s difficult to shake the mentality of social distancing and health consciousness that we have held for a year. For this reason, even if everyone in your office has been vaccinated, they may still be uncomfortable sharing spaces or not wearing a mask. Every team member's comfort level will be different, so it’s important to respect these concerns and make your team members feel comfortable in the office. Happy and healthy team members are productive ones, so utilize these solutions to prepare your company to return to a vaccinated office.