The number of active COVID-19 cases in Australia is declining, and more people are recovering from the virus every day. Because of this, government agencies are gradually easing restrictions on regional travel and business operations. This is a sigh of relief for many businesses that struggled with the economic disruption caused by the pandemic.
However, returning to work can lead to disaster if managed poorly. There are six crucial steps to ensuring a safe and successful workplace transition.
1. Discuss working arrangements
Having your entire staff return to the workplace at once can increase the risk of infectious diseases, so a significant amount of planning is required. Your first priority should be to assess whether it’s essential for certain employees to be on-site. This will vary depending on the specific job function of each employee. Those whose work is not affected by their location such as marketers, programmers, and back office employees may not need to return immediately. However, employees like IT personnel, managers, and HR staff could be much more effective at doing their jobs in the office.
To make an informed decision, have a clear dialogue with your entire company. Provide a platform where employees can raise their concerns, and make sure to take everyone’s needs into account before asking them to return.
More importantly, consider setting shifts to ensure only a limited number of employees are in the office at any given time. Just make sure to consult with team members when they’re available for certain shifts.
2. Ensure workplace safety
Going back to the workplace doesn’t mean going back to normal operations prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. General hygiene and social distancing regulations are still in full effect despite the government easing restrictions on business lockdowns. This means you’ll need to reconfigure your workspace to minimise health and safety risks.
For starters, change seating arrangements so that employees are at least 1.5 metres apart from each other. Common office areas like the break room must abide by physical distancing of one person per four square metres. In-person meetings should also have limited attendees, especially if you have small meeting rooms.
As for general hygiene, maintain a rigorous cleaning schedule for facilities and tell staff to wash their hands regularly. Masks should be worn frequently, or at least when people are talking face to face. If people are sick, tell them to stay home to reduce the risk of infections in the office. Also, mandate temperature checks and register people’s names before entering the office for contact tracing purposes.
3. Retain remote working policies
Even though businesses are reopening their doors for employees, it’s wise to maintain remote working arrangements for at least several months. One reason for this is that quarantine may continue in some parts of Australia where the risk of COVID-19 remains high. Employees may feel unsafe going back to the office if coronavirus cases are still occurring. Plus, if there’s a resurgence in COVID-19 infections, having a remote work strategy ready can literally save lives.
From an economic standpoint, maintaining remote work policies offers a host of benefits. Giving employees the flexibility to work wherever they feel the most comfortable (and safe) can increase productivity levels. Expenses associated with running an on-site business like office space, equipment, and travel reimbursement are reduced. There’s also minimal disruption to your business when workers are accustomed to practicing remote work when they’re suddenly required to do so.
4. Adapt your communication strategy
Don’t let go of collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams just because people are back in the office. In fact, this is the time to incorporate more cloud communication and collaboration apps into your workflow.
Think about the lessons you’ve learned from using cloud apps during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Was Microsoft Teams effective for one-on-one reviews and video conferencing? What features and plugins do employees need to work more efficiently? Were there any bottlenecks or issues using particular cloud apps?
Asking these questions will help you develop a communication and collaboration strategy that’s effective for both remote and on-site workers.
5. Practice digital hygiene
Months of remote work, where user activities were largely unsupervised, might have exposed employee devices to cyberthreats. For all you know, unsanctioned apps and malicious software have made it into company-issued devices. If these same devices connect directly to the company’s office network, your entire system could be at risk.
That’s why you need to clean up employee devices before letting them back into the office. This involves running anti-malware scans, updating software, resetting passwords and maintaining multifactor authentication, and installing a secure virtual private network (VPN).
6. Assess infrastructure requirements
COVID-19 has taught businesses how critical network connectivity, collaboration tools, and communication systems were to staying operational. If these technologies aren’t present in your workplace, you need to identify and iron out the glitches in your company’s infrastructure.
The best way to do this is by having a trusted managed IT services provider (MSP) conduct a comprehensive technology assessment. MSPs analyse your company’s operations and identify bottlenecks that are keeping your company from running smoothly. They’ll then give expert recommendations on the IT solutions and services you should implement when for a successful workplace transition after COVID-19.
For example, if your office networks are running slowly, MSPs may optimise internet bandwidth and suggest router upgrades. However, if business communications are the issue, they may recommend Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems and equipment. With an MSP like Empower IT, you can fast track IT evaluations and implementations to avoid crippling productivity losses.
Empower IT is one of Australia’s leading MSPs offering unparalleled IT services and solutions. From cybersecurity and IT support to cloud collaboration and network optimisation, we can help your business thrive in these hard times. Call us today to transition smoothly back into the workplace.