Many are relishing the prospect of a return to normality and the associated benefits for physical and mental well-being: the opportunity to be reunited with friends and family, a trip to the theatre or cinema. There is a lot to look forward to. But as we edge closer to the long-awaited “new normal,” it is important to realize that the concept of work as it has been traditionally understood has undergone a transformation. We examine what this might mean for the long-anticipated return to the office.
The return to office life will raise a mixture of emotions for the millions of workers who have grown accustomed to working from home for the better part of 15 months. Some have welcomed the change and been more productive as a result and will feel some apprehension about returning. Others have missed the camaraderie of their office environment and the focus and routine it offers and will embrace the chance to get back.
So, What is the Consensus on Returning to the Office?
A recent study conducted by collaboration platform Slack looked at over 9,000 US knowledge workers – such as programmers, architects and engineers – and found that 48% would like to see a permanent shift in policy and remote working opportunities expanded.
Going one step further, three out of 10 knowledge workers stated that they would never, or rarely, wish to return to the office. Only four out 10 expressed a desire to go back to the old normal. This is supported by a Harvard Business School survey that showed 81% of employees welcome the prospect of increased workplace flexibility. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed would like to work from home two to three days a week.
This contrast in views has certainly complicated matters for business and HR leaders looking to form a return-to-office strategy that considers both their business needs and their employees’ sentiments.
So, what are they to do?
What Employers Should Do for a Safe Return to the Office
The fact is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer for the steps HR and business leaders must take to ensure a safe and easy transition back to the office. Your plans will depend on three factors:
- Local public health directives – Have health or governing authorities allowed companies to return to offices? Are there any restrictions?
- Your business needs – Does your industry need regular in-person attendance to thrive?
- How your employees feel – Are the majority in favor of going back to the office or would they rather stay remote?
It is important to keep these questions in mind as you design the office return plan that works for your organization and employees. That said, there are a few general guidelines, informed by health agencies and workplace interest groups, that you can follow to ensure your company’s return to the workplace is safe, healthy and compliant.
Social distancing within the office
It is essential that businesses follow government guidelines, as the virus is easily spread via airborne transmission. This includes ensuring your office space adheres to social distancing precautions.
Having a symptom checker put in place is key to creating a safe space for employees to work. If symptoms are present, businesses must follow government guidelines and provide their employees with the necessary support to remain healthy while at work, or while working from home.
Sanitary practices in the workplace
Sanitization is of the utmost importance for office spaces to remain safe for employees. To prevent the spread of the virus, companies must plan rigorous and routine deep cleaning sessions of all communal office spaces and document them to provide transparency with employees.
Clear, regular communication
In our current, ever-changing world, there must be a clear course of communication between employers and employees, especially within a global organization. With government advice and legislation being under constant scrutiny, companies must relay any changed circumstances to workers efficiently and effectively to stay abreast of any current information and remain compliant.
How an Employer of Record Can Help Companies with Their Return to the Office
The shift to remote working showed one thing: people can work remotely, with ease. In this technological era, with numerous applications which enable workforces to stay connected regardless of geographical location, being physically in the office has become less important. That said, the office will remain a key part of work life well into the future – though what role it plays will change.
Companies that are looking to formulate a plan for a safe return to their office spaces – or even those deciding whether it makes sense for their business to get rid of those spaces completely – need to consider all angles that might potentially affect their compliance with local laws and restrictions, employees’ safety and engagement, and their bottom line.
Global labor laws are forever evolving – and now more than ever – leaving companies to reevaluate how they manage their employees while remaining compliant. Elements’ HR and payroll consulting is a specialized offering that can help you understand, navigate and implement successful human capital management strategies. Through our comprehensive array of services and direct presence in over 135 countries, we can help you successfully maneuver the return to office for all of your global locations.
About Elements Global Services:
Elements Global Services is a global tech firm, focused on software that is built to go beyond country borders and simplify a company’s ability to Expand their Business, Onboard Employees, Manage Compliance and Pay Globally.