Post COVID Offices: Transitioning Back After Working Remote

employees back in the office post covid19 in Canada

The questions on many people’s minds at the moment are: 

  • What will post-COVID offices look like? 
  • Are open-concept offices a thing of the past? 
  • Will most companies just completely transition to working remotely? 
  • How will employees manage transitioning back to the physical workplace environment? 
  • How can employers handle safety concerns? 

The country and most of the world are starting to return to the new “normal” after months of lockdown during the Coronavirus pandemic. Employers must prepare their employees for what they can expect the new office environments of the future to look like. And to do this, a plan must be put in place.  

Returning To Work: The #1 Thing On Employers’ Minds 

COVID-19 has shone a light on the fragility of humanity. We question the uncertainty of many normal daily processes and environments we once routinely practiced. There are many places and situations that will now feel considerably more unsafe for individuals across the world such as shopping malls, public transport and other public establishments. This feeling of uncertainty is inevitable. 

What exactly does this mean for the employer? 

How can we safely transition our employees’ return to work?  

How can companies stay resilient in a post COVID era?

The current global pandemic has raised many new workplace considerations for employers in terms of health and safety, human rights and privacy. So, it is understandable that the main concern on the minds of employers right now is how to create a workplace environment going forward that will be safe for employees but will also provide them with ongoing flexibility in terms of sick days and the ability to work remotely.  

Are Open Concept Offices A Thing Of The Past?  

One thing is for certain – open concept offices may never be the same again. Buffer zones around desks, one-way corridors and clear plexiglass screens to guard against the coughs and sneezes of colleagues may become office standards in the very near future.  

Many businesses rushed to emulate the work environments of co-working spaces such as WeWork. However, these office environments may not be the most health and safety conscious going forward. With the necessity for employees to be able to physically distance themselves from others sharing an office space, many open-plan office spaces will need to be redesigned in order to minimize the risk of transmission and to prevent a second wave of COVID cases.  

Many companies are in the exact same position when navigating the safest way to help employees transition back to working in a physical office space. One thing that you can bank on is the fact that office spaces will never quite look the same again. Concepts such as hot-desking may be replaced with working from home indefinitely – or at least the majority of the time.  

Sick Days Or Work From Home: Which Is More Important? 

While the layout and design of your company’s workplace environment will certainly be a top priority before transitioning back to working in the office, so must the update of company policies surrounding sick days and working from home.  

For many companies across Canada, up until now, there may have been an unspoken yet accepted acknowledgement that some individuals preferred to go to the office regardless of whether they were physically healthy to do so or not.  

Let’s face it, everyone gets a cold now and again. However, going forward it is unlikely that your employees will feel comfortable if others are coughing or sneezing in the office space. That is why some employers may need to reconsider their policies around sick days and remote work and decide which is most important for the safety of their team.  

While there has been some discussion about increasing universal sick leave for all Canadians to 10 days a year in order to prepare a potential second wave of the virus in winter, employers will now need to put clear expectations in place as to what actions they expect sick employees to take. It may also be necessary to review policies regarding allowing employees to remain working from home or offering more flexibility in terms of remote work in the future.   

The Importance Of Having An Agile Health & Safety Plan One thing is for certain during the transition period for all companies is ensuring that they have an agile health and safety plan in place. As we have noted before, health and safety will be top of every employee’s mind in a post-COVID world and all businesses must equip employees with the skills that they need to protect themselves and others in the workplace.  

An agile health & safety plan in the workplace should look at areas such as how employees should manage general hygiene rules, the correct safety distance measures to be followed, how to dispose of waste correctly (especially if it could be possibly contaminated). It should also cover the procedures that must be followed when dealing with the following workplace hazards:  

  • Accessibility issues 
  • Fire safety 
  • Workplace ergonomics 
  • WHMIS 
  • Mental health & substance abuse  

The health and wellbeing of your employees should be at the centre of all decisions made by the business, especially when it comes to the workplace environment. One of the best ways that an employer can prepare their employees from transitioning back to the work environment in the wake of COVID-19 is by providing them with a robust, updated and agile health and safety plan.  

Going Back Into The Office: Be Prepared By Training Your Team 

You need to show leadership and communicate with your team to prepare them for going back to the office. Start now and give them enough time to digest the change.

Here at the Training Company, we believe that the best way to help your team feel more comfortable about transitioning back to working from the office is by providing them with employee training courses that will educate them on the correct way to practise health and safety in the new post COVID office space. 

Interested in hearing more? Get in touch with our team today and we’ll help you to design a training plan that is perfect for your employees’ needs during this unprecedented time.