Nov 18 2020

It’s Time for Business to Plan for Reopening Offices

There’s a lot to consider to ensure workers are safe, but a range of technologies can help.

Today, as most organizations continue with their remote work environments indefinitely, many are wondering when things will ever get back to what was recently considered “normal” — or whether the current status is the new normal.

In business, the only constant is change. Who would have guessed in January that the year would unfold as it has? So, while I won’t make any predictions, I will note that as long as businesses are following applicable laws, they are free to build their own workplace styles without merely choosing between the way things recently were and the way they currently are. There’s plenty in between.

For example, some organizations have already begun reopening shared workspaces, limiting occupancy to key staff or implementing rotations that include most employees coming in on different days. While businesses and workers have discovered this year that collaboration is possible without colocation, it seems likely that more offices will reopen to more employees over time.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Steps small businesses should take when preparing to return to the office.

Businesses Must Make a Plan to Return

Some businesses may choose to stay fully remote permanently. For everyone else, now is the time to make a reopening plan. Just some of the key questions include: Under what circumstances should we reopen? How many people will be in the office together simultaneously? What technologies should we have in place to increase everyone’s safety? How will we continue to manage remote workers, given the ­likelihood that many workers will remain offsite much of the time?

According to an Enterprise Strategy Group report, 61 percent of knowledge workers are concerned about their own personal health, but 25 percent still want to return to their offices.

Businesses must demonstrate to their teams that they take their well-being seriously and are working hard to protect them.

In its advice to organizations on reopening, management consultant Deloitte recommends that as organizations think through reopening plans, they should consider not just the physical workplace but also the work itself and the specific workers. Businesses should determine which roles and work need to return to the workplace to be effective, as well as the type of work that needs to be done in person.

That seems like a sound starting place as businesses consider who returns to the office and when, while plotting out the tactics they’ll deploy to keep people as physically distanced as possible throughout the workday.

Technology Is Vital for Hybrid Work

This is where technology can help. It’s now simple to access solutions in these categories:

Elevated skin temperature monitoring. Temperature scanning is now common in many workplaces seeking to reopen safely. A thermal ­camera can scan larger crowds, or a no-contact forehead thermometer can check the temperature of individual workers.

Social distancing solutions. People counters track how many people enter or leave an establishment, and social d­istancing monitors alert staff if people are too close to each other. Many businesses are also deploying protective shields at checkout counters and between employees’ desks to keep staff and customers safer.

Workflow management. Business applications exist that help to simplify complex workflows involved in reopenings while providing data to managers on everything from employee readiness surveys to contact tracing should someone test positive.

The most resilient businesses know that uncertainty is a fact of life in every organization. We don’t know when businesses will be able to reopen, but now is the time to think through a strategy for how to welcome employees back safely, when the time is right. 

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