4 Ways Workplace Managers Can Prepare for the Return to Work

It’s no secret that COVID has reshaped our world, but what does that mean for reshaping offices? From facility managers to HR, returning to work is on everyone’s mind. Excitement levels are high as people think about returning to their physical office environment, and with the pandemic shifting, all we can do is prepare.

Companies are working towards making the transition effortless and safe while maintaining high enthusiasm among employees. Returning to work is going to look different from before, and office managers are shifting their workplace strategy to accommodate. Here are 4 things to keep in mind when planning your return to the office. 

Office Space Planning 

In person engagement has become less of a necessity with the rise of remote positions, but why not have both? Hybrid-style office spaces are becoming the new norm for many workplaces. Canadian company IGM Financial, for example, surveyed their employees to see what they wanted to change when returning to work and 98% said they wanted to keep flexibility and have a combination of in-office and remote days. Flexibility is crucial when transitioning back to in person workspaces, and pivotal technology is the way to go. Space planning tools can empower safety and efficiency when bringing employees back to the office. COVID protocols are rapidly changing, and therefore, so must office layouts. Physically moving desks to maintain a 6 ft. distance between employees can be a complex task, especially when the layout doesn’t accommodate everyone, and adjustments need to be made.

empty desks layout in office

By taking advantage of indoor mapping and workplace management software to plan the office layout, workplace teams have the ability to visualize the office space before physically moving furniture. Forecast future space requirements and ensure you are using your office space to its full potential. Digitizing your office space and enabling tools for space planning can be challenging, so we recommend partnering with third-party operators to help implement a solution that solves for the specific goals of your office. Consider occupancy, area, and usage information when designating spaces in the workplace. Pairing with third-party platforms can show how much space is available in an area based on current occupancy, maximum occupancy and the assignable area. Assign spaces to different departments for cost allocation and reporting purposes, making for an efficient return to the office.

Increased Office Safety 

Office spaces will need to implement additional types of safety measures compared to before COVID-19. This will be vital for the comfort of employees. This includes putting up signs to show certain areas that have been properly sanitized and keeping these signs updated to show the time it was last cleaned. Signs can also show the number of people allocated in each elevator or room to follow proper social distancing protocols. Ensuring filled hand sanitizers are placed around the office is a new essential protocol when returning to work. Keeping all this in mind on top of worrying about things like the cleanliness of air ducts and ventilation systems is a lot to handle, that's why some companies are taking an integrated approach and bringing multiple solutions together. 

masked employees sitting in office workplace with computers

Digitizing the office and keeping all of this data in a single location can be particularly helpful when moving employees back into the office. For example, using technology to notify when an area requires cleaning It is also important to keep visitor login information and contact monitoring in mind as it can help track and slow the spread of future illnesses. Keeping visitor login data gives you access to information about who is coming in and out of the building, bringing relief and comfort to employees. Worrying about who has been at a desk before you, can interfere with feeling at ease and making employees track their every move in the office can reduce employee efficiency. An employee monitoring their every interaction with other people in case there is an outbreak can be inconvenient and tedious, and that's why companies are moving towards partnering with third-party platforms to promote contact tracing. This takes the pressure off employees and puts it onto these platforms for a simple and smooth transition back to the office. Some platforms rely on indoor positioning and device tracking to keep employee data private while still enabling admins to monitor contacts in the event of an outbreak. 

Employee Communication 

From face-to-face engagement to Zoom meetings, communication has always been embedded in office practices. Remote work has made companies redefine communication as the typical chat in the hallway has changed to a scheduled meeting. Some employees that have started new remote jobs have not been given the chance to experience in person engagement within their company. This has made the workplace less informal and more organized, but some of that personal communication between coworkers has been lost. Companies have implemented casual coffee chats and other events to maintain personal connections, while still accommodating for a professional level of communication.

employee sitting in front of laptop video calling

With the rise of hybrid-style offices, communication is transitioning into a hybrid style as well. Whether an employee is in the office or working remotely, they need to know what’s going on. Open dialogues create trust from employer to employee and having communication embedded in a company's values, internally and externally, can create an efficient and motivating work environment. Face challenges head-on and be open with your employees about how the workplace is changing, and what you are doing to help. Communication is the key to increasing office productivity and therefore, your company’s success. Inclusivity is important when not everyone is in one place, which is why digitizing the office can help. There are several solutions today that allow workplace teams to send out notifications to all employees, whether they are in the office or not.

Improved Workplace Innovation  

Following the trend is no longer enough. Workplace teams need to be innovative in order to accommodate the changing landscape of office buildings. Finding ways to predict your employee and consumer needs is the gateway to success. When asking employees to return to the office, it is important to keep morale high. Some people have become accustomed to a home office, so it can be difficult to get them excited about returning to the office when COVID protocols are still up in the air and procedures may need to be followed. Employees will need to readjust to commuting and coming back to a workspace where they may not have their own workspace anymore. 

Innovation is the way to get people excited about returning to work. Consider implementing digital solutions that enable employees to reserve spaces such as desks and meeting rooms on a one-time or recurring basis. These digital solutions can be exciting with the ability to add detailed location information to these rooms ensuring easy and efficient navigation through the office. For example, if an employee is searching for a room and they are in need of a whiteboard, they can click on the room and see its features, including how many people it can fit, if there are HDMI cables, and so on. Facility management can return to the office with confidence as platforms can alert facilities teams if a vending machine is broken, a washroom is out of order, and more, thereby creating a new and improved office to return to. 

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The “return to work” movement is a turning point for both employees and employers. So, why not take advantage of the moment and use it to revamp how employees experience going to the office? A great way to upgrade the experience you bring your employees back to is available in Workplace Service Delivery from ServiceNow, a suite of digital workplace services that creates a consumer-grade experience for employees using space (i.e., a flex desk reservation or a conference room) and requesting services at the office.

Mappedin integrates with Workplace Service Delivery from ServiceNow to add a very important element to the toolkit fulfillers use to configure and make space available in a safe (i.e., socially distanced) and effective manner.

Plat4mation, an elite ServiceNow partner and licensed Mappedin reseller, is an experienced partner in integrating Mappedin’s space-mapping technologies with Workplace Service Delivery to simplify space planning and reservations for facility managers and employees alike.

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