With a reliable vaccine and readily available testing, many companies are now allowing their employees to return, at least partially, to the office.
In fact, the latest polls show that nearly half of all workers will transition to a hybrid workforce model — they will spend part of the time working in the office and part of the time working from home — as long as COVID-19 remains a threat.
Unsurprisingly, transitioning to this setup has been a challenge for some modern employers. They must grapple with readying an office for workers while simultaneously keeping their digital work environment up to snuff.
On top of that, employers have differing degrees of comfort levels with in-person work and pleasing everyone is proving difficult. But there are some things employers can do when implementing a hybrid office model to keep the process running smoothly.
1. Make Face Masks Available and Required in Common Areas
You can allow your team to go without the mask if they have their own private workspaces, such as an office or cubicle. However, you should encourage them to always wear masks when in shared spaces, such as the breakroom, bathroom, meeting rooms, and hallways. Make sure to have a stash of disposable masks available to employees so they have one if they forget theirs at home.
2. Create “Welcome Back” Kits
To ease the blow of returning to work, consider equipping every workstation with some essential safety items. Create goodie bags with a sanitizer, a branded mask with your logo, disinfectant wipes and any special treats or company swag items you think will get them excited about coming back.
Your team has been through a lot over the past year, and we’re willing to bet they adjusted amazingly, so take this opportunity to reward them and set them up for safety. Gift cards to the coffee shop are always appreciated!
3. Encourage Office Workers to Get Vaccinated
Of course, the best defense against the virus is the vaccine, but not all workers may be amenable to getting it. If you’re comfortable requiring it, this is a good way to help prevent the spread within the office.
If you don’t feel that decision would be received well, you might consider offering some incentives to workers who get vaccinated. An afternoon off, a special gift, or even a monetary bonus will encourage workers to finally take the leap and get vaccinated.
4. Make Rapid Test Kits Available
If you don’t plan on requiring in-person workers to be vaccinated, regular testing is essential.
Now that there are plenty of reliable rapid COVID test kits for sale, companies should keep a stock on hand for anyone who is experiencing symptoms or who has been in contact with a positive COVID case.
You may even make weekly testing a requirement for team members who are not vaccinated.
The Abbot BinaxNOW™ COVID test is a popular choice for workplaces of every size because it provides fast, accurate results and comes in a self-test option that’s great for home or office administration.
5. Make In-Person Work Optional
If you have the capacity to keep workers working from home, don’t require them to return to the office. Remember, the pandemic spurred a lot of shaking-up within the workforce, with a record four million people leaving their jobs.
Among the often-cited reasons for quitting? Fear of returning to an unsafe or unhealthy work environment. With this in mind, it’s best to make all in-person work, including hybrid models, optional if you can do so without hindering your processes.
6. Encourage a Comfortable Home Workspace
One of the most challenging aspects of the hybrid model is that your team needs to have a full workspace in two separate places. As you prep the office for workers to return, you also need to keep fostering a productive work environment at home.
That might mean creating a more “mobile” workspace — a laptop your employees plug into monitors in both locations, for example — or simply allowing workers to have two computers, one in each location.
Provide all hybrid employees with a well-stocked work-from-home kit that contains all the office essentials as well.
7. Don’t Fill the Office
A simple way to ensure that your workers maintain social distancing is to always keep the office at half capacity or less. A good way to do that is to toggle schedules so half the workforce is in the office Monday and Wednesday while the other half is in the office Tuesday and Thursday.
If it works within your company’s parameters, make Friday a work from home day for everyone. If possible, let employees pick which days they want to be in the office.
8. Don’t Get Rid of the Meeting Links Quite Yet
With a hybrid model, you’re almost always going to have at least one person who’s not in the office for a specific meeting. That means you’ll have to keep using video or audio conferencing, even if it’s only one person who’s working from home.
By now we’re all in the habit of including the conferencing link in our meeting invites, so make sure to keep doing that even if most of your team is in the office at least part-time.
9. Go Paperless Wherever Possible
If the pandemic taught us anything, it was how to leverage all the great digital tools and get rid of those pesky hard copies. If you’re still holding out on certain processes that require hard copies or “wet” signatures, work on implementing ways to digitize things and go paperless.
Chances are, we’ll be working in a hybrid environment for many years to come, so this is something you want to work on as soon as possible.
There’s a reason why the hybrid workplace model has become so popular among pandemic-era workers. It allows them the flexibility they need to get work done from anywhere while also encouraging in-person engagement, which strengthens their relationships with employees and clients.
However, it’s easy for employers to overlook some of the most important aspects of making the model a success. Following the above tips will help ensure the transition goes smoothly.