Halfway into 2021, we’re finally seeing the end of this virus-ridden tunnel. In just one year, different companies have transitioned to flexible working arrangements. Whether it’s making sure all employees are working remotely or are taking turns going to the office, new working models are taking hold of different industries. Whatever the case is, we’ve developed a heightened sense of awareness when people come too close to our 1-meter bubble.
Despite this, many employers are reopening their offices and letting more employees work onsite. As expected, this has elicited mixed feelings from the general public. While many people have missed collaborating with their colleagues in person and working on their designated desk rather than a makeshift home office, most of them are worried about the implications. Aside from remote working, 2020 also shone a spotlight on part-time and freelance work. Returning to the office also means that they will lose the flexibility and safety of working within the comforts of their homes. In a recent study conducted by Live Career, 29% of workers are willing to quit their jobs if they were forced to come back onsite.
And they cannot be blamed. Employees are afraid of the health risks that come along with public transportation, eating out, and gatherings in the office. At this point, vaccination programs are still ongoing. It is not enough that only 50% of the workplace comes onsite vaccinated.
According to Perkins and Will’s prediction, companies will adopt a hybrid schedule that allows employees to work in the office or at home. The future of work embraces flexibility, change, and health. Workers can spend a few days at home doing individual work and drop by the office for collaborative meetings or team-building sessions.
Whether you’re preparing to see your workforce return to the office full time or embracing a hybrid solution, there are many ways you can help your employees feel safe when they’re onsite and feel included when they’re working remotely.
Reimagining the workplace
Before you even reopen your office doors to welcome your employees back, you can conduct an audit to assess the state of your office. Perhaps no one has been at the office for more than three months. You can have experts check if your security system and social distancing measures are still up to par.
When the pandemic first hit, many employers mirrored how healthcare facilities adapted to the new normal. Workers would be required to wear PPE and masks, disinfect work surfaces, and wash their hands. This was accompanied by installing office features such as automatic sinks, soap dispensers, voice-activated buttons, and motion-sensor lights.
As the virus evolved to become more airborne, ventilation became the new buzzword. Indoor spaces now needed natural lighting and easy access to the outdoors. Naturally, offices in congested cities like New York or London had to acquire air purifiers instead.
With regards to your security system, you can fit your cameras with a thermal imaging solution to lessen the need for close contact. The entrances and exits of the office should have a combination of a solid door lock or two and an alarm system. While basic needs of your building’s security can be easily overlooked when outfitting your building with new furniture and technologies for your new working model. As possibly multiple contractors enter and exit your building, you can keep track of them by updating your security system with a facial recognition solution.
Apart from proper ventilation and an updated security system, employees can also feel more encouraged to go to an office that is regularly cleaned and disinfected. Cubicles are now considered old school and conference rooms are the new norms, as well. This will necessitate more shared spaces, such as outdoor cafeterias, co-working spaces, and larger meeting areas. To embrace a more hybrid workplace, these rooms can have videoconferencing technology to communicate with workers who still work remotely.
All of these actions should be guided by a communal awareness and response to protect each other from further sickness. What’s important here is to communicate your company’s efforts to the rest of your employees and entrusting them with the responsibility to observe health protocols from the moment they step out of their house and spend the day in the office until they return home.
Work from home burnout
While the needs of your remote employees are a little different, the solutions are almost similar.
Because you’re allowing them to stay at home, they have more control of their surroundings and their time. This means that you can trust them to keep their home clean and disinfected, and still show up for their daily shift.
Where they are more likely to be left vulnerable is their home office and home router security.
Remind your employees to bring their laptops or gadgets back inside when they make coffee or cook some lunch. These assets can be easily stolen from their backyard or front porch. They can lock their doors or activate their alarm systems while they go on a break. There are motion-sensor cameras that can also send a notification to their phones if someone is at the door or in front of specific windows.
Aside from burglars, cybercriminals can easily exploit weak encryption or router passwords and collect personal information from your network.
This can be avoided by regularly installing firmware updates and changing your router’s password at least once a month. Having IT experts on your team can also regularly run diagnostics on each employee’s computer and update their antivirus, anti-malware, and firewall software.
Ultimately, workplace flexibility is less focused on new furniture, technology, or software. It also means setting realistic expectations for your workers. How much do you want them to work onsite? How much do you want them to work from home? How often do you want them to keep you updated? Making the right decision can strengthen the company culture and even increase employee motivation levels. There is no one-solution-fits-all for these challenging times. Instead of looking at what other companies are doing, turn these initiatives into conversations with your employees and create a solution that fits you best.