CIOs, project managers, and the most vital members of their teams will likely be among the first wave of employees returning to their workplace amidst office reopening. According to Dice’s ongoing COVID-19 Sentiment Survey, roughly 16 percent of technologists are already back working in the office full-time, while another 15 percent have returned on a part-time basis. At the same time, 23 percent also reported feeling “extremely safe” at the prospect of returning to their old desk.
Even while some technologists are enthusiastic for returning, however, team leaders and executives must develop an effective return-to-work strategy that builds trust between employees and their company. Here are some ways to consider safeguarding your team’s well-being as they prepare to return to the office in coming quarters.
Use Data to Prioritize Returns
Many employers are using a phased approach to reopen their offices to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19. At major companies such as Google and Apple, only a small fraction of employees will return at first, with many not scheduled to come back to the office until the very end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021.
Analyzing everything from employee health information and location, as well as project schedules and importance to the strategic roadmap, can help managers balance safety and production output when deciding which team members should return first.
Implement Daily Health Screening
Screening staff and visitors daily for symptoms, elevated temperatures or close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus can help prevent COVID-19 from entering the workplace amidst reopening. Managers also need to make accommodations, such as telework, for at-risk teammates with underlying conditions.
Regardless of the screening method, mangers need to follow privacy rules and consider informing the team if someone tests positive for the virus (without disclosing their name).
At the same tie, employers should be sure to not put pressure on employees to come to work if they are feeling sick. Team leaders have a responsibility to monitor peer pressure and foster equality among remote and in-house workers. You certainly don’t want to inadvertently create two classes of corporate citizenship, she added.
Create an Open Line of Communication
Maintaining regular, transparent two-way communication is important, especially during times of extreme stress and change. Communicate the expectations before your team returns via video or email. Then, make it easy for them to ask questions and raise concerns by employing a variety of communication methods, including town halls or online chats. Also, continue to provide information about resources such as free testing for COVID-19 (and antibodies), EAP, sick pay or wellness programs.
Some of the conversations you will have with team members about their health or family situations may seem a bit awkward at first. In fact, you may find out things about your teammates that you never knew before. But engaging in frequent one-one-one dialogues with team members will improve comfort levels during the reopening and over time.
Implement Door-to-Door Social Distancing
The latest Centers for Disease Control and OSHA guidelines advise that team members stay at least six feet apart throughout the day in order to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. To keep workers separated, companies are rearranging furniture, installing plexiglass partitions between cubicles and limiting capacity in conference, break and server rooms. They are also placing markers on floors and walls to reduce congestion and remind workers to wash their hands frequently (and avoid handshakes or hugging).
Consider providing grab-and-go lunches and continuing the practice of holding daily scrums or standups online. Require face coverings in small spaces such as elevators, hallways or common areas and designate staircases as up or down.
Help your team members feel confident about the office reopening by sending them a “welcome back” package containing face masks, hand sanitizer, a revised layout map and copy of the ground rules.
Create a Cleaning Regimen
Although the CDC guidance has been revised, safely sanitizing desks, keyboards, mice and mobile devices is still recommended. You’ll need to initiate a more thorough cleaning if someone in your office gets sick with COVID-19. Plus, executing a frequent, visible cleaning regimen, especially in common areas, shows commitment to employee wellbeing and builds confidence.