As the availability of vaccinations increases, more businesses are preparing to open their doors and welcome employees and customers back inside.
However, returning to the office after months of working from home will take some adjustment and many employees are feeling the anxiety of returning to their office facilities.
While cleanliness and safety tend to be top-of-mind for most employees, if you think that plexiglass, sanitizer and disinfecting wipes are the most important tactics for getting employees back into the office, you will fail in your employees’ eyes.
What is one of the most important things? Trust.
No matter how many tons of hand sanitizer you have at the offices, that linear effort will not build a strong rapport with employees. You have to gain your employees’ trust and help them understand that their wellbeing is important to the business.
One way to show your employees that you take their health and safety seriously is through communication. Here are six questions that you should be able to answer before you ask staff to return to their office desks in order to build trust with your staff.
How have you improved airflow in the office?
The CDC has updated its outlook on the transmission of COVID-19 and recommends a layered approach to reduce exposure to the virus. The approach includes using multiple mitigation strategies, including improvements to building ventilation, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, redesigning workspaces and common area spaces to allow for physical distancing, advocating wearing face masks and hand hygiene, and encouraging employees to get their vaccination.
Since SARS-CoV-2 viral particles spread between people more readily indoors, the CDC has determined that air quality and ventilation are characterized as more important than surface disinfection, to reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially within commercial facilities.
You should be prepared to talk to employees about what steps have been taken to improve the airflow in the office and discuss any other mitigation strategies the company has implemented.
What are your company’s policies about vaccination?
Will the company require employees to be fully vaccinated before they can return to the office? What steps will the company take to verify vaccination statuses?
Protecting employees who are both vaccinated and not vaccinated will be important for the company to outline. Many vaccinated individuals feel safe in areas with others that are vaccinated. But when an office has a mix of vaccination statuses, safety measures become more complicated.
Outlining your policies for vaccinations and making sure those policies accommodate people who have yet to be protected are important steps to take before reopening your office facilities.
What are the company’s policies about wearing masks?
Similar to the last question, it is important that you outline policies for wearing masks inside the facility. If you are not requiring all employees to be vaccinated, masks are an essential tool for helping to keep employees safe.
Returning to the office after over a year will already be a challenge for many employees. Adding in new policies, even if they are designed to keep employees safe, can be a struggle for a lot of employees to maintain and follow.
Consistent communication is needed to help employees feel engaged and not overwhelmed. It may also mean new policies are created, It may make sense to encourage outside meetings or allow offices with doors to be reserved by employees of any level, not just management.
Will there be a flexible schedule allowing employees to work from home?
The world has changed, for businesses, facilities, families, employees…everyone! Your organization needs to recognize that and revamp to establish new flexible scheduling that makes sense in the “new world”.
An engagement and retention report shows that 69% of employees are considering finding a new job this year, and of those 52% are actively job hunting. The employees that were surveyed stated four primary reasons why they are planning to leave their current employer. One of those reasons was the lack of flexibility employers are having when it comes to allowing a mix of in-office and work from home scheduling.
How will the office be cleaned and how often will high-touch surfaces be disinfected?
Even though the CDC has determined that air quality is more important, the vast majority of individuals now relate cleanliness to the health and safety of a facility. If the offices don’t look and feel clean, employees will not feel safe in that environment.
New cleaning goals should include a heightened focus on safeguarding the health of employees and occupants within your facility walls – even if they aren’t on the premises five days a week.
What happens if someone gets sick or there is an emergency?
Given the speed that COVID-19 spread throughout the states, even staff in well-protected workplaces are still at risk of becoming infected. Will employees be notified if someone in the facility has tested positive for COVID-19? What will happen, how will it be communicated, and who will receive the communication? You should outline different hypothetical situations and determine the process that should be taken for each.
Employees may also be uneasy about other emergencies that could take place.
- What if there is an active shooter onsite?
- How will weather-related emergencies be handled?
- What if there is civil unrest in the community?
It is important to answer these questions and have written policies in place to handle many different situations. You will also have to allow for flexibility and adaptability as things change in the world.
When employees are your most important asset, it is important that you work towards their best interests.
As always, being proactive in your communications and putting the wellbeing of your employees first will only help build the trust your employees have in your company and within your facility.
Great partners like Flagship can help you prepare your facility and can be a “force multiplier” that adapts with you, offers you guidance, brings expertise, and ensures your workplace runs smoothly every day.
Flagship's customizable approach to your facility's needs will incorporate solutions that will help you reopen responsibly and protect the health and safety of your occupants during operations.