Turning to tech: managing a safe return to work

Getting employees back to work in the office is possible, but complex. This article from Condeco investigates how organisations can safely return to the office, with technology at the heart of the strategic plan

Lockdown has been incredibly challenging for businesses across the world; with companies having to radically alter their working practices to allow their employees to work from home. But as many regions are beginning to ease regulations and restrictions, attention is being turned away from the immediate threat of the virus and towards getting life back to normal.

However, getting back to normal is no easy feat in the office environment. Think about a typical day in the office and how many social encounters there other with other people. It could be colleagues at neighbouring desks, clients or partners in meeting rooms, or even people from other departments in the lunch queue or at the coffee machine. Needless to say, every part of normal office life will need a rethink to allow people to return to work safely.

Do we really need to get people back into the office?

In most cases, the answer is yes. While working from home has benefits such as greater employee flexibility and the elimination of the commute, it has also exposed the positive aspects of the office.

Perhaps the most significant benefit of the office is the social interaction and collaboration potential the office environment brings. Zoom and Skype will never be a substitute for face-to-face collaboration, creativity and productivity. Being in the same physical space helps individual teams work better and communicate better as a unit with other teams and departments. Don’t forget the social aspect, too: employees being able to fully develop working relationships with their colleagues removes any feelings of isolation and positively contributes to their mental health.

As for the perspectives of business owners and managers, no employees in the office means that real estate is largely sitting idle, with all the unnecessary financial costs that rack up as a result. So, a return to the ‘new normal’ – whatever that will be – is essential for employers and employees alike.

The risks of getting it wrong

History will not be kind to companies who mismanage the phased return to work of their employees. The consequences of failing to safeguard the health and wellbeing of workforce could be so severe that they could pose an existential threat to your business:

  • Health: if an outbreak does occur within your workforce and quickly spreads, so many people could be off sick that your business can’t function properly.
  • Compliance: there are likely to be large penalties in place for companies found to be in breach of social distancing measures and other legislation.
  • Legal: any employees who feel their health and safety has been disregarded could bring their own legal action against the business.
  • Reputation: any negative publicity caused by any of the above could cause brand damage that is deep and long-lasting.

Despite these measures, there is a strong compulsion back to the office. So, what is the solution?

Join the dots with technology

While there is no silver bullet solution to returning to the office, using a comprehensive, integrated workplace management system can minimise many of the potential issues. You can ensure the right people work in the right places at the right time, in an environment with constant sanitisation and with social distancing measures fully in place. And through desktop and mobile apps, every employee can be kept fully up to date with their working arrangements.

Space and capacity management can be controlled by blocking off every second desk, for example, from bookings so that workers can be kept far enough apart. Staff can receive full information of their workstation and shift times before they even leave homes to minimise any unnecessary contact when they’re there.

Sanitisation time can be scheduled into the system so that each space is always given a deep clean after each and every use. And the technology can also be used as a contact tracing app, tracking who has been close to whom, and allowing for an immediate response if anyone becomes infected or shows any symptoms.

The technology solutions that include this level of granularity and integration will enable a return to work that is as safe as it possibly can be. At a time when businesses need certainty and employees need reassurance, it can form an essential part of getting all our business lives restarted.

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