CEO of Galetti, John Jack shares tips to prepare employers for the safe official reopening of commercial buildings and office spaces
With employees around the country slowly returning to work, employers are having to reckon with a whole new approach to the concept of 'office space'.
As John shared in Business Day, offices need to be viewed as a safe space to work productively, as a place to build innovation and company culture – without packing employees into the smallest space possible.
John says that while safety remains the priority, factoring in employee comfort should also be high on the agenda for employers.
The list below shares his top tips for employers wishing to ensure a smooth transition as their staff returns to the workplace.
Give them time to prepare
Some of your employees might be understandably fearful about returning to work after all the uncertainty of the last year. Make sure that you give them a fair warning about the reopening date to have enough time to get their personal affairs in order, such as organizing childcare, and mentally preparing for the transition.
Consider staggering the return
Does the nature of your work require that all employees return to the office at the same time? If not, consider staggering the return by having staff return in stages. This gradual return will give you enough time to redesign the office space as needed for safe, socially distanced working conditions.
Have a safety plan and stick to it
Consult official Government Guidelines to ensure that your return-to-work plan is compliant with legally mandated COVID-19 safety protocols.
Design your office space around the need for social distancing
Leave an adequate distance between desks, install plentiful sanitizing stations, ensure that there is adequate ventilation throughout the office space, and limit the number of people allowed in one space to avoid overcrowding.
Ask for honest feedback
Ask your team for honest feedback on how they think the transition back to work could be improved and implement their advice where possible.
The role of the office in a post-COVID world has shifted. John believes that the office should be seen as a space for your employees to collaborate rather than viewing the office space as the only place they can perform work tasks.
Focus on output, not hours
Leading on from Tip 6, let your employees determine which working style best suits them: every day at the office, working entirely remotely but coming in for meetings, or spending half the week at the office and half at home. Flexibility is fine, so long as their deliverables are met.
Communicate with your landlord
If COVID-19 has taken a knock on your ability to pay your rent, Jack says don’t be afraid to speak to your landlord. With options to divide the office space through subletting, or only using the space on certain days, there may be room for some leeway.
Don’t be a hypocrite
If you expect your employees to show up to the office daily, so should you! You might risk your employees viewing the office as a punishment rather than a space to collaborate if they feel that a different set of rules apply to them than to you.
COVID-19 has changed the way we work. Things won’t go back to ‘normal’ immediately and John says that that’s okay. Check-in with your employees regularly and reassure them that their safety and comfort are always a priority.