At some point over the next few months, employers will be able to reopen offices and welcome back employees. But while some individuals will be chomping at the bit and desperate for face to face contact with long-lost colleagues, others will understandably need to be coaxed back. The office space will take on a new dimension in the new hybrid working world. So what steps can companies take today to ensure all employees want to experience and enjoy face to face collaboration and connection, asks Dan Harding, CEO, Sign In App.
Understanding Employee Reservations
A recent survey confirmed that nearly every employee is worried about returning to work, with concerns about touching shared office devices, social distancing, cleanliness, and more. Yet, just nine per cent of workers expect to return to the office full time. It’s clear that both employees and employers alike are keen to explore the opportunity of hybrid working, keeping face to face contact within some form of office environment – or touchdown space – a core part of the working experience, even if only for a few days each month.
If companies want to get employees re-engaged with the physical workspace, they need to start planning now. Instead of waiting for the current restrictions to end, it’s time to brush off the office and policy cobwebs and put plans in place ahead of the long-awaited return to the office. Employers need to consider; what steps are required to make employees feel safe, supported and motivated in the new hybrid environment? How are they planning to check employees’ physical and mental wellbeing and intervene if necessary?
This is not about extra hand sanitiser or one-way systems. Companies need to actively communicate plans about how they view the new workspace – including how and when it is used. This is about reimagining the office concept for the better – employer duty of care must receive the same treatment.
Keeping Employees in the Loop
From rec rooms to coffee making facilities and shared working spaces, employees need to feel confident that the business has a handle on social distancing. They want to know how their employer plans to keep track of both staff and visitors on site at any time to meet contact tracing requirements. And they want to be able to seamlessly collaborate with colleagues no matter their location in a truly flexible way. These factors needn’t be overwhelming for businesses, as innovative, cloud-based technology solutions that are straightforward to deploy and operate hold the key to unlocking the hybrid working future.
Simple apps can be used to sign in to the building, using contactless technology to minimise interactions. This provides a company with accurate and up to date information about every employee, visitor and contractor on site at any time. If any individual becomes ill or tests positive for COVID-19, the business has immediate access to the contact details of anyone who has been potentially exposed, allowing effective contact tracing and isolation.
In addition, the app can be used by employees to book desks in advance – with clear rules set to control capacity in every area. For example in a pod of four desks, only two can be made available at any one time – all done electronically. Meeting spaces can be limited to specific numbers – enforcing the rule of six, for example. Showing employees that the space is safe and controlled is a great way to boost their confidence about returning to the office, especially for the first time.
Ensuring Staff Wellbeing
Adding health questionnaires to the sign in and out process is also a simple, effective way of keeping track of mental and physical wellbeing. Obviously, essential COVID-19 questions such as whether someone is running a temperature or has a cough will be standard requirements within most offices for the foreseeable future. But this facility can also be used to check an individual’s mental wellbeing, especially if they are using the app to sign in and out of work at home as well as in the office.
In addition to checking that employees are not working excessive hours at home – something that has raised concerns over the past few months – managers can use the app to gain a better understanding of how people are coping with the changing working world.
How are they managing working from home? Do they have ideas about how to improve the collaborative workspace? In a working world that is in an unprecedented transition towards a hybrid environment, this information can provide companies with vital insights to inform new policies and procedures that will help to safeguard employees and create a productive workforce.
It’s important to keep in mind there is no one size fits all solution, no set framework for the new working environment and what will work for one organisation may require further process iterations for the next. But what better time is there than now to consider how the office can be changed for the better? To improve morale, collaboration and productivity via a flexible culture that works for all, underpinned by innovative and adaptable technology solutions.
Few companies are expecting to open the doors and welcome the entire workforce back to the office on day one, but many may well be surprised by the reluctance of some individuals to return to any co-working space. Employee expectations of the working world have changed for good so employers need to not only adapt working spaces accordingly, but also their approach to HR and duty of care. Technology is set to play a key role in this strategy, not only in managing the capacity and safety within the physical office space but also in building confidence and providing a chance to check in with employees and understand what they need to be productive and happy in the office or at home.