It is time for the inevitable return to the office. Organizations are prepping the journey map to bring employees back to work. But after a harrowing year, are employees ready to come back?
As Covid-19 surged around the world, daily human practices like catching the subway to work, connecting with colleagues over water cooler conversations, or meeting friends over brunch seemed less and less of a possibility.
In Seattle, Washington, the hub of many of the USA's early Covid-19 cases, companies including Amazon, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Google advised employees to stop coming in to office in late February of 2020. As a final Hail Mary, companies issued work from home orders to curb the growing number of cases and ease the load on an already overburdened healthcare system. A jarring disruption to people's daily lives, a silver lining to some, a morose downpour to others.
In a report published by Slack, the business communication platform, on the April of 2020, stated that newly remote employees were struggling to adapt to their new workplace reality, with over 31% reporting a negative affect on productivity and 46% suffering from a lack of a sense of belonging. But experienced remote workers elaborated that connectedness and productivity would improve over time. Collaboration tools were the key to efficient communication in the new reality.
So, adjustments took place rapidly. As did the urgent task of creating a cure for the deadly virus. After months of trials and testing, the first vaccine roll-out in the US took place in December of 2020, just before Christmas. Since then the population of vaccinated people has been growing, cases have been declining, and soon, a good proportion of the working-age population are expected to be vaccinated. Sounds like a long-drawn Christmas miracle.
CEOs are looking hopeful about finally getting the band back together and are starting to think seriously about how to get employees back to the office. But for some employees, the prospect of returning back to their desks is filling them anxiety and dread, rather than relief. To a large extent, working remotely or hybrid has worked, even though adjustment took a long spell. According to a recent workplace study by Best Practice Institute, 83% of CEOs want employees back in the office in 2021, while only 10% nodded an interest in returning to their full-time roles. Trust and safety was of paramount concern among the respondents, where 60% of employees responded that they wouldn't be comfortable returning without trusting the company's confidence in communicating co-worker illness, clear instructions on health and safety policies, and the option to work from home.
People, especially the immunocompromised, are concerned about their health, and going back to the office is just like waving a red flag in front of a bull. CEOs and leaders are going to have to be more cognizant about the process of safe return and find the fine balance between meeting the organization's needs as well as the needs of the employees.
And it is right at this sweet spot that peopleHum itches that scratch.
Return to Office solution: Employee journey map
How does peopleHum Return to Office (RTO) solution address the needs of organizations looking to bring employees back to the office, while keeping diligent faith with compliance needs, legal requirements, and employee health and safety in mind? Well, the stars must be in their favour because we've got a whole map prepared to ease the employee's transference back to the office.
Step 1: The announcement
Being considerate and respectful of the employee's choices is the first step to securing the culture of trust and safety in the return to office scenario. For the sake of elaboration, let's call the employee "Jason".
Jason receives an announcement from his workplace about the call for return to office. From there he gets a thorough brief about workplace safety and wellness policies. After reading through them, Jason receives a survey link which will take his feedback on the return to office decision.
Step 2: To go or not to go
To gauge Jason's feelings about the return to office, after understanding the protocols in place and the safety standards that will be followed, the organization's HR will kick-off a survey and understand his choice on the matter.
In order to understand the state of Jason's personal welfare, the questions will be relevant to his wellbeing during the period he worked away from the office. This includes questions such as:
- "How comfortable are you returning to work in the office?"
- "How would you measure your level of productivity while working form home?"
- "What aspects worry you about the return to office?"
- "How confident are you that your organization will take the necessary steps to ensure a safe and healthy work environment?"
Step 3: Taking the first step
In the case that Jason responds positively by opting-in for return to office, he will proceed to fill-in the RTO checklist form, which will indicate the list of to-do's, the mandatory courses which will need to be taken, etc. Based on his response, and the responses of his fellow employees, the HR department will decide who returns to the office.
The RTO checklist could include pertinent questions such as:
- Vaccination status
- History of contraction
- Travel history
- Symptoms and their severity
- An option for document upload
The checklist ensures complete transparency and culling the risk of exposure.
Step 4: The return
After the HR department completes Jason's enrolment, he will receive an invitation for his return to office. On the day of his return to office, Jason would undergo a temperature screening, following which he would check-in to the workspace through the peopleHum mobile app by scanning the QR code at his location.
As a part of the return to office setting, Jason will receive a pulse survey post the completion of his work day, to gather his feedback on the organization's compliance with the RTO protocols and his experience with the safety measures undertaken.
Whether or not employees wish to return to offices is undeniably a matter of safety. CEOs and leaders are tasked with the responsibility to ease employees' doubts and build an environment of trust and safety for them. With the peopleHum Return to Office solution, we fill the gap with a system of transparency that enables employers and employees to build that environment. And with a solution such as that in place, organizations can move forward with a shift into, yet again, a new normal.