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Last week, the Government’s updated guidelines advised that companies can now use their discretion to return employees to the office. But there are a whole host of considerations to make before shipping staff back to your HQIn this blog we will be focusing on advice from leaders throughout Taylor Made and Peach Technologies, to provide you will an all-encompassing guide to safely transitioning from home working to working back in your home from home.  

While we are IT specialists, this advice is suitable for all sectors and covers everything from your cybersecurity to your employees’ potential worries about the transition.  

Why are companies considering returning to the office?

On Friday 17 July, our Prime Minister announced that the governments ‘Work from Home’ guidance will be changing from 1 August. Until now, the guidelines have been to work from home where possible, and to avoid public transport. With this change to the rules, employers will be able to use their own discretion to return staff to the office and the advice to avoid public transport has been scrapped.  

Whilst a lot of employees have become accustomed to the lie-ins, reduction in travel times and holding virtual meetings, there are a lot of companies who will be pleased to know homeworking may be coming to an end. Having teams in the office has many benefits for some workplaces, especially those which require close collaboration or communication which cannot always be achieved when working remotely.  

Just because you can, should you?

The first step in evaluating if you should bring your teams back into the office during a pandemic is to ask ‘Why should I?’.  

If your business is seeing a detrimental effect on day-to-day operations because your staff are not on-site, it makes complete sense. Whilst at the same time, does everyone need to return to the office to get business back on track? More often than not, the answer is no.   

Are you returning employees because the Technology that you have isn’t empowering your teams to work efficiently?  

In April 2020, statistics released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics showed “49.2% of adults in employment were working from home, as a result of the social distancing measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 50% of the UK’s workforce is set to be permanently working from home by 2020 with smaller offices used as ‘Hubs’ for when employees do want to have interaction with their colleagues, or a face-to-face meeting is needed.  

Savings on rent, power, and rates could be vast.

Inside of London, the average price per square foot of office space is £114.00. Outside, this drops to £35.00. Businesses will no longer need this pace and can cut office space by more than half. The realization of these savings has seen shared workspace companies such as WeWork have unprecedented numbers working from their locations.

How to ensure your workplace is ready  

Unlike in March, when businesses had to transition to remote working in a very short period of time, business leaders are now in no rush to return to the office, meaning you can ensure everything has been considered before making the leap. At this point, it is important to decide if you need to return to the office just yet. If the answer is yes, your first step should be to undertake a risk assessment, official guides can be found on the .gov website. 

Remember, your staff and customers’ safety should be your number one priority.  

Keeping you people safe

With social distancing measures in place for the foreseeable future, you will probably have to limit the number of staff returning to the office to maintain 1m distance between employees. With this in mind, consider who needs to be in the office and only ask for individuals to return where it is a necessity. Everyone has different feelings and opinions of COVID, and at this point, some may be more anxious about returning to the office. 

Once you have decided who will be returning to the office, you will need to plan how people will be interacting. While many will cherish the ability to chat with their colleagues, you will need to ensure social distancing measures are being followed. This includes when arranging meetings; try to encourage virtual meetings where possible (through your collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams) or by limiting numbers and keeping distanced if virtual meetings are not possible.  

As a business leader or team manager, it is vital that you lead by example. If employees see management following the rules strictly, they are more likely to be on board too.  

The office environment

Your office must be suitably adapted before anyone can return. Hand sanitiser should be available and, preferably, so should cleaning materials for desks and other areas. Spacing between desks should be considered to ensure staff are 1m apart and hot-desking should be avoided, this may affect your decision when planning who will return to the office. Masks should be provided for those in close contact and it is your duty to ensure staff are educated in how, and when, to use them and how to dispose of them safely.  

High-contact areas, such as handles, communal areas and toilets should be regularly cleaned to prevent the spread of germs. You should also plan safety measures for certain areas to ensure they do not become overcrowded (especially when everyone heads to the break room for lunch). Some businesses are also introducing temperature checks upon arrival at work. This is, of course, down to bushiness preferences and resources but may help keep people’s minds at rest. 

Policies

In order to keep everyone safe while in the office, consider introducing new COVID policies. You should take into account staff rules and policies for visitors to the office. It is really important to ensure everyone is aware of these policies too, otherwise the implementation may not be as successful. 

As well as setting out your own business rules, it is vital that staff are aware of the COVID guidelines set by the government – if they are showing symptoms, or have been exposed to someone with the virus, they should follow the official advice.  

Tech 

There may be members of staff who have been using different IT equipment at homeBe sure to advise staff to be prepared and have their documents and files saved in a suitable location when they return to avoid unnecessary admin when they’re back. If staff have been using personal equipment during their period of homeworking, it’s really important you establish why this happened, ideally updating your IT policies to reflect the importance of avoiding this practice, and ensure any documents are transferred securely.  

 This could be a great time to improve your IT solutions too. With anything from strategic roadmap planning to cloud implementation or updating your phone systems to allow for flexible working, there are lots of updates that will support your business growth and productivity.  

 If you promote hotdesking, you’ll have to think about changing this to fixed desk policy for the time being.  

Your disaster recovery plan

Was your IT up to the remote working challenge we faced this year? If not, or if your company is continuing with remote working, it would be beneficial to reevaluate your business plan now. You probably have essential hardware and software under your belt now, but what about security and monitoring? Now is a great time to check your data and infrastructure or implement productivity monitoring, so you can work more efficiently if the worst should happen in the future.  

So, what does it all mean?  

The number of things to think about in preparation of the return to the office may seem overwhelming, but with step by step plans, you’ll be back in no time. While the preparation is undoubtedly a big job, you must remember that it is all in the interest of health and safety, for your employees and customers. It is also really important to focus on your disaster recovery plan. With talks of a second wave, it is best to be prepared and know that you have everything in order should we be required to work from home again in the future. 

Download our Return to Work checklist to easily establish how prepared your business is for the jump back into your HQ. Our spreadsheet covers all areas of your planning, from IT recovery to protection Policies, everything mentioned in the blog is included, plus much more! 

Download your free return to work checklist for employers and managers today.

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