When it's time to go back: Create a plan for reintroducing your workforce into the office after COVID-19

Businesses have to be proactive to preserve business continuity. Learn how to create a plan for reintroducing your workforce into the office after COVID-19 here.

A week from today or a month from now, there will come a time where the "new normal" will be set to go live.

For businesses, this means welcoming back employees to the physical workplace. In addition, it's returning business operations to its pre-COVID-19 levels.

Yet, thinking that just asking employees to come back to work and hope for the best will almost certainly backfire. Especially, if you don't have a solid business continuity strategy in place

In order to reintroduce your workforce, you'll need to have a specialised business continuity plan that's tailored for COVID-19 created right about now. It simply won't do to try to create one when your employees are already trying to get back to their previous rhythms and habits in the office. 

It'll be a time of confusion, as your employees have just gotten used to working from home.

Keep on reading for a full breakdown of how to reintroduce your workforce to the office. 

Business Continuity: How COVID-19 already changed the workplace

The first step to reintroducing your employees back to the "normal" workspace and office, you need to have a thorough understanding of the disruption force. In this case, that would be COVID-19. 

You'll need to know its parameters and effects on your business and your industry as a whole. 

For instance, in the case of the insurance industry, you'll find that there has been a major response on part of insurers to COVID-19. 

Furthermore, you'll need to keep your employee's mindsets and how they're affected by COVID-19 in mind.

For instance, there has been a rather obvious shift in preference for conducting business online rather than in person. People will be shy about seeing clients physically instead of online.

This, of course, will have an impact on how businesses meet with current and prospective clients, as well as daily operations as a whole.

In turn, this will create a heavier workload for IT departments to carry. They'll have to ensure that the IT infrastructure can handle the extra load. 

How to reintroduce your employees to the workplace: The transition 

Now that we have a solid grasp on what challenges COVID-19 will be bringing to the table. Let's explore how to the transition back to work might look like.

In the simplest of terms, the transition will differ depending on each community, industry, and even whether your area of operations has been one that's been hit hard and has high COVID-19 cases or not. 

Add in factors such as population density and supportive policy, and you'll get a different answer every time.

Moreover, the designation of "essential" versus "non-essential" workers will haunt your employees' minds, which might make some of them hesitant to be physically present, even as lockdown protocols ease. 

Understandably, many employees will be concerned about the continued risks to their health and the health of their families. 

As a business, you'll need to be ready for the unknowns that will persist. As it stands, you won't be able to recognise the existence of asymptomatic carriers, and the lack of widespread testing further complicates business operations. 

The best way to set your reintroduction plan would be taking the route of a phased approach. It's the most realistic option, and even then, it'll bring up a host of complexities once the implementation step is ready to go. 

Phase 1: Before the "Reopening" date

Before even setting the date for when employees would be expected back at the workplace, you'll have to establish a new "working guide."

For the health safety of your employees (and their sanity), you'll have to address the fact that the proximity of people within open floor plan offices, kitchens, and even production lines can be risky.

In order to safely and respectfully work together, your operations and human resources leaders will need to identify measures that they can take right now to mitigate future workplace infection. 

Moreover, they'll have to create a guideline on how best to communicate and foster the shifts in normalities and environments.

For example, greeting your colleges with a wave and at a safe distance will be the new normal. This might be jarring for some businesses with friendly and warm business culture. 

Phase 2: Sanitisation and protective equipment

The next step would be committing to ongoing deep cleaning, and the promise to close sites/departments where employees test positive in the coming months. 

Furthermore, you should consider providing or —at least— acquiring sanitisation stations with hand sanitisers, water and soap.

In addition, assuming that the needs of medical workers are met first, you should invest in disposable masks for your employees. 

Another safety implementation would be reconfiguring or setting up barriers between workspaces, as well as constituting medical policies like taking the employees temperature as they're entering the building. 

This might seem like a lot to take in. Yet, all are essential steps that can't be ignored. After all, being open doesn't necessarily mean staying open.

Phase 3: Employee shifts

As seen in markets and industries that have already started going back to work, many employee schedules have been heavily adjusted to prevent overcrowding in the workplace.

For instance, many blue and white-collar employees are both working in shifts. In addition, you can start adopting a hybrid remote-physical workplace in order to reduce crowding as well as accommodate flexible schedules.

As it were, many of your employees will still have to take care of children that aren't at school or daycare.  

Assess and Plan: Creating business stability in a time of upheaval

No one can deny that businesses are now wading through uncharted territories in a time of a global pandemic. 

However, that doesn't mean that every business playbook gets thrown out of the window. Creating a reintroduction plan for business continuity will be invaluable, both for your business itself and for the peace of mind of your employees.

There is still so much more to learn on how to navigate the workplace in the time of COVID-19.

For example, you can learn how to effectively implement social distancing in the workplace by checking out our blog. It has all the business advice and tips you could possibly need.

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The information contained herein is offered as risk and claims management industry guidance and provided as an overview of current market risks and available programs and is intended for discussion purposes only. This publication is not intended to offer legal advice or client-specific risk management advice. General descriptions contained herein do not include complete definitions, terms, and/or conditions, and should not be relied on for claims management interpretation. Actual claims and risk management policies must always be consulted for full coverage details and analysis.

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