Employees must be confident that their well-being is prioritized when facilities are reopened, and staff are moved back to the office or current on-site staff capacity is increased.
A recent Gartner, Inc. survey found that social or physical distancing arrangements was the top workplace standard to have in place when employees return to the office, followed by adequate personal protective equipment and safe work playbook (or equivalent) (see Figure 1).
“Service and support leaders planning to return employees on-site have a host of factors to consider before doing so,” said Deborah Alvord, senior director analyst in the Gartner Customer Service and Support Practice. “These range from assessing current office conditions, implementing social distancing guidelines and potential facility upgrades. A successful return to work program will alleviate staff fears and concerns, and ease the transition of going back to the workplace.”
Figure 1: Return to Workplace Standards
Gartner recommends that service and support leaders consider the following factors in their return to work program:
- Current office conditions: Review each area of the office, such as the break room, meeting space, rep workspace, collaboration space, restrooms and dining area to identify where changes need to be made to adjust for social distancing and proper hygiene requirements.
- Employee hygiene modification: Distribute hygiene guidelines to employees and provide training to employees returning to the office on hygiene modifications that must be followed.
- Social distancing modification: Understanding the impact of new social distancing guidelines on office space is essential for informing employees’ return to work strategies. Assess whether social distancing guidelines will reduce maximum office capacity and evaluate the portion of staff that may have to continue working remotely.
- Facility requirements and adjustments: Conduct a thorough assessment of the work environment and make needed adjustments. Organizations who do not own their facilities should partner with the property owner to assess the environment and develop a plan.
- Return to work criteria: Create a list of criteria using state, local and federal HR and health guidelines to identify those employees that are eligible for return to the office and those that are at higher risk. Take into consideration employees who volunteer to return to the office, employees who live closest to the office and wouldn’t have to take public transportation and high-risk groups.
- Communication and management changes: Ensure communications regarding return to the office are sent weeks in advance of implementation to allow employees to make accommodations and adjust. This should include the changes made to the office to prioritize employee health and well-being, along with how reintroduction of staff to the office will occur.
“While assessing the success of a return to work program, service leaders should also gather continuous employee feedback,” said John Quaglietta, senior director analyst in the Gartner Customer Service and Support Practice. “This helps identify gaps in the current policies, provides an opportunity for organizations to address concerns directly, and should be used to adjust the return to work phases.”
You can learn more about how to lead organizations through the disruption of coronavirus in the Gartner coronavirus resource center, a collection of complementary Gartner research and webinars to help organizations respond, manage, and prepare for the rapid spread and global impact of COVID-19.