Millions of businesses and individuals are weighing the pros and cons of going back to the office after working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Returning to the office has a lot of advantages, but if you’re going to make this move, you need to be smart about it.
With the right set of changes, you can make your return to the office more efficient, more accommodating, and better suited for your long term future.
These are some of the most important changes to make.
Retaining the Benefits of Remote Work
If you want to retain the benefits of your remote work environment and maximize the potential of your new office environment, consider making these changes:
1. Allow flexible hours or occasional remote work. One of the best things you can do is allow for more flexible hours or occasional remote work. Just because you’re reopening the office doesn’t mean that all of your workers need to be in the building all of the time.
Even having one or two days per week working remotely can provide a massive morale boost and give employees the chance to retain the productivity benefits they enjoyed over the past couple of years.
Similarly, you can allow your employees to have more autonomy over the hours they work – as long as they get the work done.
2. Minimize meetings. Meetings are a blight on productivity. They often waste time, they wander in various directions, and they include multiple people, multiplying the productivity loss. Whether you cut back on meetings during the pandemic or you simply transitioned everything to zoom, the last thing your employees are going to want is to be stuck in meeting hell the moment they return to the office. Cut back on meetings and keep them few and far between.
3. Upgrade your software. Hopefully, you have a robust digital environment in which your employees can work productively. But this is still an important opportunity to review your current software and upgrade it if necessary. Better office inventory management software, for example, can help you cut the costs of reopening the office while simultaneously making sure everybody has the items they need to do their jobs effectively.
4. Give people more space. Give your employees more space, both physically and metaphorically. Cramming people together is going to lead to culture shock and discomfort, while giving them plenty of space between each other is going to make them transition to the office environment much easier. Also, be considerate of the fact that many people are going to find this transition to be difficult and accommodate them where possible.
Making People Comfortable
It’s also a good idea to try and make people more comfortable, even if they don’t have a direct benefit for efficiency or productivity. Boosting morale of your employees can lead to higher employee retention and worker satisfaction, which in turn can improve your workplace in many ways.
5. Discourage attendance while sick. Many people are going to have lingering anxieties around COVID-19 and health issues that are contagious. Accordingly, this is a perfect time to address your employee health policy. One positive change to make is to strongly discourage attendance when someone is sick, even if their symptoms are mild; you can even take things a step further and check temperatures at the door.
6. Loosen the dress code. You don’t have to allow your employees to work in pajama pants and hoodies, but you should consider loosening the dress code. Today’s business environment isn’t as formal or as strict as it used to be, and you’ll likely find a productivity increase when employees have more freedom and flexibility in what they wear.
7. Reshape the culture. Think about how your workplace culture should change. Before the pandemic, many organizations tried to eliminate personal lives from discussion altogether. When you’re at work, you’re at work, and even if you have a sick child at home or other personal concerns, you should leave them at the door. In the post-pandemic era, we should all strive to be more sensitive of personal needs and more flexible for people who need to make changes based on those needs.
8. Ask for feedback (and listen to it). Finally, ask for feedback and listen to it. Talk to your employees about the changes they’d like to see in the office and consider implementing them. It’s a great way to give your workers what they want and keep morale and attitudes optimistic.
It may not be time to return to the office. You may never return to the office. But if you do want to rebuild your office environment in a post COVID-19 era, you’re going to need to be a little bit accommodating. These strategic changes can make your workers happier while boosting productivity and breathing new life into your organizational culture.