Life as we know it has been altered by the Coronavirus epidemic. Businesses and offices are reopening again as vaccination rates rise and illness rates fall in developed countries.
Employees who have been working from home since the outbreak began are being recalled. While this is encouraging news in our battle against Covid-19, don’t expect things to return to pre-2020 levels very soon. Covid-19 will be around for a little longer, as new variations emerge.
Coronavirus infection is still a possibility in the workplace, and businesses and organisations must learn to accept it. We have officially entered the “new normal.”
RisePath navigates through the steps to be taken in order to embrace the new normal in the workplace.
What does the new normal entail?
Simply put, living with coronavirus is the new normal. We must continue to maintain minimal health standards while we return to work and live a more normal life until a safe and effective vaccine is available and herd immunity is obtained.
Protective measures such as the following must be followed at all times:
- Wash your hands frequently — use soap and water to wash your hands for 20 seconds or more throughout the day. If soap and water aren’t available, use a 70 percent alcohol hand sanitizer. Hand washing is an efficient way to protect yourself and your loved ones from disease-causing microorganisms like Covid-19.
- Wear a face mask at all times — face masks are designed to protect individuals around you from the virus if you are unknowingly carrying it. Remember that the majority of Covid-19 infections are asymptomatic, meaning that infected people show no symptoms.
- Physical separation — to help prevent the coronavirus from spreading, try to keep at least 6 feet away from anyone who isn’t a family member.
- Avoid huge crowds — in huge groups or settings with limited airflow, viruses spread quickly.
- Get vaccinated — research from around the world has shown that immunizations are effective in preventing severe instances of Covid-19. So, as soon as a vaccine becomes available in your area, get it. Remember that a vaccine does not guarantee that you will not become infected with Covid-19, therefore you must still take precautions.
- Take care of your emotional and physical health — a lot has changed since the first incidence of Covid-19 was reported over a year ago. Working from home can be stressful, and the fear of an unclear future can be debilitating. Learn how to deal with stress, meditate, exercise, and eat well.
Returning to the office: an example strategy
It’s easier said than done to embrace the “new normal.” In this part, we’ll show you how to ensure that your workplace is ready for employees who are returning to work. Our strategy will be broken down into four steps:
Step 1# Go over the local health department’s guidelines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have released guidelines on how to prevent and control coronavirus in the workplace.
Step 2# Sanitation and planning
Adopting the new normal at work necessitates a great deal of forethought and preparation. Here are a few crucial items to consider:
- Improve ventilation systems — studies show that Covid-19 does not spread quickly in well-ventilated areas. Consider replacing your HVAC with high-efficiency air filters to help minimise the viral load in your office.
- Determine how and where Covid-19 could be transmitted in your workplace — coronavirus can quickly spread in high-traffic regions with frequent touchpoints. Elevator buttons, break rooms, light switches, lobbies, and door handles are all common locations. Make a plan to decrease the risk of infection once you’ve identified these crucial spots in your office.
- Covid-19 particles can be trapped for weeks in porous surfaces like carpets and lobby chairs.
- Before your official “re-opening,” make sure your office is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
- Create and post a complete new normal plan, including maintenance and disinfection dates. Include in your strategy what you’ll do if one or more of your staff becomes infected with the virus.
Step 3# Educate your staff
Make sure to educate your staff on the “new normal” norms as you welcome them to the company. This involves adhering to strict minimum health standards (e.g., wearing of facemasks, regular handwashing, physical distancing, etc).
Step 4# Embrace technology
If this epidemic has a silver lining, it is the impact of technology on our daily lives. Remote labour allows organisations to continue operating with a skeleton team thanks to the internet and modern computing. Technology can also be used to make your workplace safer. Consider replacing your lobby door with a hands-free, motion-activated door instead, since doorknobs are considered high-touch surfaces.
How will you deal with the new workplace normal?
Managers and business owners may find it difficult to adjust to the new normal in the office once staff return. Here are several suggestions that we believe will be useful:
1. Keep your staff informed about your return-to-work intentions on a regular basis.
Open and consistent communication is an excellent method to get your staff ready to return to work. When your employees return, emphasise the new work arrangements and make it clear what is expected of them. Keep in mind that there are still employees that are anxious. Give them time to adjust by reaching out to them. If necessary, communicate excessively. Remember that there is no such thing as too much communication in a pandemic.
2. Display the precautions you’ve taken to keep your staff secure.
Many of your workers will be hesitant to return. One method to reassure them is to show them the steps you’ve taken to prevent the virus from spreading in your company. This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that you care about your employees’ emotional and physical well being.
3. Establish a time limit.
Get rid of the guessing game. Tell your employees when the return to work process begins, right away. Being specific and demonstrating that you are prepared can help your employees relax.
4. Adjust your return-to-work schedule as needed.
Make some room in your plans for flexibility. Allowing your staff to work from home for a day or two instead of working in the office for five days straight can help ease the adjustment. Remember that the pandemic is still ongoing. As a result, be ready to pivot if the situation worsens.
5. Rethink what productivity means to you.
Employees labour in a variety of ways. Some people are more productive in an office setting, while others prefer to work from home. Managers should learn to work together with their staff. Allow your staff to choose from a variety of options and parameters to determine what works best for them.
6. Your primary concern is now safety.
There’s something wrong if your office looks exactly like the one your employees departed in 2020. Remember that your employees will remain fearful and suspicious. Ensure that suitable mitigations are in place to assist decrease the risk of Covid-19 transmission in their physical workplaces. Not just that, but your organization’s and your office building’s protocols as well. In other words, everything should shout “Covid secure!”
7. Conduct regular evaluations
Regular surveys are an excellent method to stay in touch with your employees, assess their experience, and respond rapidly to their changing requirements. This can be done every three months. Encourage your employees to give honest feedback.
8. Create a welcoming workplace
Training, professional development, mentorship, and seminars should all be tailored to put employee safety first. Asking your staff what will help them feel safe at work, how the epidemic has affected them, and what they need to become more productive is another way to build a supportive environment. You can then implement new initiatives based on their responses to help employees flourish during these challenging times.
Business owners, managers, and employees are facing new issues and demands as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Almost everyone switched to working from home during the early months of the outbreak, which resulted in a significant increase in productivity and happiness. However, as loneliness and a lack of socialisation creep in, additional issues emerge.
Everyone is now hoping to return to work and reclaim their feeling of routine. If there’s one piece of advice we can give, it’s to be adaptable and to prioritise safety. The future remains unknown. Outbreaks can still occur as long as there is no herd immunity. Your company must be able to pivot at any time. Finally, firms that prioritise employee safety will have employees who are more confident and productive at work.