Insight |

Return to the office plan: Reconnecting with your workforce


Return to the office plan: Reconnecting with your workforce

Insight |

Return to the office plan: Reconnecting with your workforce

Whether your team still plans on working remotely or returning to the office, it’s important to put the right steps in place for them to thrive. As some businesses start to begin their journey back to working from the office, there are a few considerations that should be made to ensure this transition is as smooth as possible.

Planning your return

Before communicating an intent to return to the office, we would recommend first gauging your team’s thoughts on returning to an office environment and most importantly discover any concerns that may be troubling them.

We recommend sending out a survey to your teams to understand if they’re feeling anxious, excited or indifferent about returning to the office. A decision that has taken into consideration the results of these surveys will be best suited to your business. Our customers can easily send out a pulse to their organization to discover their thoughts on returning to the office. Below is the form we used internally and have shared with our customers.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Managing hybrid and remote teams toolkit

Returning to the office

When planning your return to the office, there are a few important things to consider with your team.

Staggered return

As many governments suggest a staggered return to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it’s important to understand the different methods and how this could impact your team productivity.

Staggering a return to office has many benefits besides lessening the shock of returning to the office full time. A slow or staggered return to office will see less community transmission of COVID-19 as there are fewer interactions in public and in office.

Options for a staggered return

  • On and off weeks: To lessen the chances of spreading infection, have an on week and an off week for different teams.
  • Staggered days: Depending on your team structures, it might make sense to split them with days of the week, with some teams working Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and others working Tuesday and Thursdays. This will help lessen contact between team members and stop the spread.
  • Team days: if a return to your workspace has been done to help collaboration, it may be best to organise a schedule to ensure that every team has different days where they can interact with another team. For example, your design team may need to work with a development team and a marketing team so it would be best for the design team to work on Tuesdays when the marketing team is in as well as Wednesdays when the development team is working.

Semi-distributed workforce

A few organizations have chosen to move their businesses to be distributed permanently, and maybe some of your team members have identified this as being the best working scenario for them. If this is the case, you may need to have some conversations around how this will work with team members who have asked for this.

Striking a balance between those who are working from home and from office doesn’t need to be a difficult task. Take some of the ideas you may have integrated when your office was fully distributed and include them in your distributed workforce. Pay special attention to check-in regularly with your distributed team members and include them in the office culture as much as possible.

Office conditions

Regardless of how you decide what’s best for your team, there is one thing that is imperative to going back to the workplace, and that’s having a safe and hygienic workspace. Putting restrictions on how many people are allowed in the office to defining

Keeping your workspace safe:

  • Having readily available sanitiser at entrances and exits, encourage use where possible.
  • Provide disinfectant wipes for desks and available in all meeting rooms to be used after a meeting.
  • Consistently stocked hand soap, as this is a better method of ridding germs than sanitiser.
  • If your office has shared cutlery, ensure a dishwasher is used after every single use.
  • Have restrictions on how many people can be in a meeting room at a time.
  • Restrict access to the office for those who don’t work there, such as client or candidate meetings
  • Put up signage showing employees how to practice good hygiene

Traveling to and from work

If returning to the office is the right thing for your team, consider every step your employee will take to reach the office. Will they be catching public transport, perhaps cycling or driving? It may be best to stagger the start time for your team members so that they’re avoiding peak hour on public transport, or avoiding excess interaction in after ride facilities.

Providing some flexibility in working hours will also help to assist parents who are taking their children to school or dealing with homeschool responsibilities. An environment where your team members are able to set their own hours is a good step towards creating trust and fostering a positive return to work.

If you’ve had to stand down employees

If you’re in the fortunate circumstance where welcoming your workers back includes those who have been stood down, you may need to approach the return from a different angle. If you haven’t been communicating regularly with your team members who have been stood down, you should start doing so sooner rather than later if you’re expecting them to return to their previous position.

Take into account the mental state that your team members may be in when receiving information on their return. Be empathetic to their reactions and listen accordingly to what they may need to assist their return. Just like with your employees who have continued working, ask them if they feel safe to return and under what conditions would be preferable for them.

Be clear with the time frames involved and give as much notice as possible. Your stood down team members may be on government support which may need to change or they might need to make childcare arrangements.

At every step, make sure that communication is an open dialogue and that you’re open to receiving feedback to how the process is tracking. Remember that there is no right way to return your workforce, and this is also a new experience for most likely all parties involved, so patience and awareness should be prioritised.

Plan for a second wave

No matter where you are in the world, if your teams are preparing to return to the office they may not be staying there permanently due to future flare ups of COVID-19. Set in place a series of processes that can be undertaken in short notice to facilitate your people going back to their home offices with ease. For example, if your employees need access to technology, make it easily accessible and available for pickup after hours.

Organize with your leadership team a contingency plan to be enacted if one of your employees does come down with a case of COVID-19.


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