Businesses are beginning to plan their return to the workplace — are you? No matter when it happens, you’ll need a plan in place for when some or all of your staff can return to work at the office. Do you know what your top IT and HR considerations should be?
After more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely that your business has gotten into a rhythm with remote work. But, depending on where you operate, you could have the opportunity to return to work in the office sometime soon.
Are you planning to? If you are, do you have a plan to do so effectively?
A recent PwC survey offers valuable insight into how business leaders and their teams are looking at a possible return to the office. It’s nearly a unanimous opinion across the country that remote work has been beneficial, with 83% of respondents considering it a success.
However, that doesn’t mean that everyone is going to keep working at home permanently. 95% of business owners agree that employees need to be in the office for some portion of their time on the job, with most (29%) believing at least 3 days in the office will be necessary. Regardless, employers expect in-person work to begin sooner than employees (75% vs. 61%).
The benefits of remote work can’t be overlooked. A little more than half of the employers surveyed agree that their teams have become more productive while working from home. That said, they also recognize that less experienced employees will benefit from having more time in the office, with direct access to important resources.
The bottom line is that while full-time remote work will not become the standard after the pandemic, it will still play a role in the business world. CEOs and other business leaders are investing more and more heavily in the tools required for long-term hybrid workspaces.
All of this begs the question — are you planning to return to the office? If so, have you prepared properly for it?
Managing Your Growth
The silver lining of the pandemic is that it was a key opportunity to improve your business’ processes for adapting to and overcoming challenges. Reflect on this process so you can make the best of it:
Managing Your Staff’s Transition
Any organization planning to open their doors again must make sure they’re following the right health and safety measures to keep their staff, clients, and overall, community safe.
Follow this checklist to make sure you’re prepared:
Make Sure Your Staff Is Organized
There’s no need to rush back to the office if some work can still be handled remotely. While most jobs can be done from home, you should take a moment to consider what jobs specifically can be managed while outside of the office.
Make Sure Your Staff Is Motivated
Before bringing your entire staff back to the office, have just the managers and team leaders come in to talk about motivating your staff. Celebrate the fact that you can work together again, without putting others at risk or ignoring the safety and health precautions mentioned above.
Managing Your Sales & Marketing
While you will undoubtedly want to get back to business, generating sales leads and closing new business, it’s important to recognize that the pandemic will have long-lasting effects. Even if you’re back in the office, it doesn’t mean your prospects are.
You can expect fewer leads and opportunities due to the economic effects of the pandemic as well. Set your expectations appropriately, and where possible, modify your marketing to reflect an understanding of the difficult situation that everyone is in.
Managing Your Continuity
While the pandemic may be winding down, that doesn’t mean it’s over, or that something similar won’t happen again. The question is: are you ready for a second wave of the pandemic?
Although you may be able to bring your staff into the office at some point, it’s important not to forget all the hard lessons learned during this pandemic. A second wave is a distinct possibility, and so, you need to make sure you have a viable remote work plan in place that can be launched quickly.
Regardless of when you return to the office, and whether it’s your entire staff or just part of it, you have to manage the process carefully. The health of your employees, the security of your data, and the productivity of your business as a whole will be on the line.
Managing Your Technology
In addition to processes, HR considerations, and other key areas of your business, you’ll also want to make sure your technology is ready to support your return to the office.
Use this six-point checklist to make sure everything is in order:
Update Your Systems
If your onsite hardware and systems have been out of use for months on end, you’ll want to have your IT team visit the office a few days before everyone else comes back.
Make sure that all systems and software are up to date — if you don’t, you could have unaddressed cybersecurity vulnerabilities at play. Furthermore, many programs may require updating upon startup, which will be a big waste of your staff’s time when they first return to the office.
Touch Base With Your Service Providers
Make sure your service providers know you’ll be returning to the office. While you may not have specifically paused service during your work-from-home period, it’s good to double-check that everything will operate as expected when you return.
Plan Your Hybrid Approach
If you won’t be having your entire staff return all at once, then you’ll need to do some organizing to manage a hybrid in-office and remote work arrangement.
Maintaining productivity and communication between an in-office and remote staff is not necessarily easy, but if you take stock of devices in use, ensure everyone is on the same file-sharing platform, and have regular meetings to bring everyone together, it can be managed.
Conduct A Gap Analysis
If you’ve been focusing on remote work for the past half a year, then it wouldn’t be surprising if your onsite system has developed some new vulnerabilities.
In terms of your security, the gap analysis is a way of assessing “where your IT system is currently” and “where you need it to be”.
Review Your Remote Business Continuity
Don’t assume this is the last time you’ll have to work remotely — make sure to learn from the experience by asking two key questions:
Whether you plan to continue with remote work or not, if you implemented new practices for time management, communication, or other workplace priorities that helped to boost productivity and engagement, then you should continue with them.
On the other hand, if you found that some new processes or the nature of remote work itself led to delays and lowered productivity, there’s no reason to keep them going.
This is especially important when you’re determining who on your team will continue with remote work. If someone did not thrive in the remote setting, you should bring them back into the office as soon as you can.
Test Your Disaster Recovery
Even if a global pandemic hadn’t forced you to work remotely for most of this year, you should be testing your DR processes on a regular basis.
Returning to the office is a key opportunity to run through your DR processes and make sure they’re still effective.
Above all else, your return to the office needs to be handled carefully. Take your time and plan each step in detail. The more work you do ahead of time, the smoother the transition will be.
If you’re looking for expert guidance in the process, here’s how to get it: