Whether you're making a full return, a gradual return, or adopting a hybrid working policy, there are steps you will need to take to ensure you're prepared.

A lot has changed since we were last in the office pre-covid. Your staff have enjoyed over a year of remote working and have seen the benefits of this. For example, saving time and money on commuting, as well as being able to maintain a better work-life balance. Similarly, employees have reported issues with working from home, including an inability to switch off and lack of space.

How then, do you balance a variety of opposing views from your workforce regarding returning to the office?

Most London businesses are responding by adopting a hybrid working environment, whereby staff work from home or the office throughout the week as much or as little as they want.

Whilst this is certainly a positive move for employee wellbeing and productivity, it does present a unique set of logistical challenges when preparing for returning to the office.

In this article, London-based technology consultants, Netstar, share their advice for returning to the office.

Put safety first

The past year has been extremely challenging. Many of us have experienced the negative impacts of the pandemic, from a financial, social and health perspective. Your workforce is, therefore, likely to be hesitant about returning to the office.

As an employer, it's your job to put their mind at ease. Ensure that employees are regularly completing and providing evidence for negative covid tests, at least on a weekly basis but ideally every evening before coming to the office. Also ensure there is sufficient sanitizer and antibacterial spray available whilst advising on protocols for using kitchen equipment safely.

Office layout should also be a major consideration. It's likely that, since the pandemic began, employees will have joined and left your workforce. Desks may need to be moved to accommodate this and they will certainly need to be moved to allow for adequate social distancing. For the near future, employees should sit one seat apart rather than directly next to each other. It's important to ensure you have enough accessible power sockets and networks ports available to suit your new desk layout.

Check your tech

Outdated IT equipment could be a major issue when returning to the office. If it's not tested and checked in advance, your team could experience IT issues that prevent them from working.

Here are some common issues you could experience when returning to the office:

  • Network ports - You need enough network ports in the right places. They also need to be live and working correctly (ports will need to be made live by an IT professional)
  • Printers - New staff won't be set up on printers and installing printers to new devices can be time-consuming.
  • Meetings - Now that meetings can take place physically again, you'll need a protocol for booking meeting rooms. This will probably include an online booking calendar. All new employees will need to be informed of the process of booking meeting rooms.
  • Failovers - Failovers provide a quick temporary solution if your internet, phone systems, or UPS unexpectedly fail. But, if they haven't been tested for a long period of time, they may not be working adequately. They should, therefore, all be tested prior to returning to the office to prevent unexpected downtime.
  • Old devices - If you're planning on using old devices that have been left in the office for a long period of time, they will need to be updated to ensure they're secure and can operate effectively. Equally, if you plan to dispose of these devices, they'll need to be securely wiped and recycled.

At Netstar, we're offering all clients a floor-walk service whereby one of our IT experts will assess their IT environments thoroughly to solve any problems before their team returns to the office. We strongly advise seeking out a similar service with your own IT provider.

Communicate effectively

In times of uncertainty, communication is crucial to ensuring your workforce are happy and know what's expected of them. If you are implementing a gradual return to work or adopting a hybrid model for working long-term, ensure you answer every possible question your team might have. For example:

  • Who's returning and when?
  • Are some teams returning before others?
  • Will employees have core days they must come into the office or is it up to them to decide when to come in?
  • When employees do come into the office, do they need to book a seat first?
  • Will they have desks permanently assigned to them or will they be hotdesking?
  • Do they have the flexibility to work half a day from the office and half at home?
  • Will they be expected to come in a certain number of days per week?
  • Will they be expected to be in the office for certain meetings or can they join virtually?

All of these questions must be addressed, both verbally and in writing. That way, employees will be comfortable in knowing exactly what is expected of them going forward.

Plan ahead

Our top piece of advice when returning to the office is to prepare and plan ahead. No matter how or when you plan to return to the office, the tips above will help ensure it's as smooth as possible, with minimal disruption or productivity loss.

For more information on preparing to return to the office, you can download Netstar's free, comprehensive eBook, here.