4 Considerations for Returning to the Office

As more people are vaccinated and COVID infection rates continue a downward trend, companies are making plans to bring back office workers who have been working remotely for more than a year. However, they can’t just open the doors and return to business as usual.

Important Preparations for Returning to the Office

Following a year in which organizations and their employees have made dramatic adjustments in when, where and how they work, a return to office work will require thoughtful preparations. In addition to new workplace health and safety precautions, organizations must evaluate how pandemic-driven policy, process, system and service adjustments will hold up in a post-pandemic world.

Although everyone is eager to return to sense of normalcy, the events of the past year will permanently transform the workplace in small and large ways. Here are a few things organizations should consider as they reopen their offices.

Determining Remote Work Options

All companies must determine if they will continue to allow remote work options. Although surveys find that employers and employees alike are eager to return to the office, the vast majority would like to do so as part of a hybrid workplace model in which they can split time between home and the office.

However companies decide to address this issue, they must develop clearly defined policies to ensure there are no misunderstandings. Will employees have the freedom to set their own schedules or will there be specific days or hours when office attendance is required? Will work-from-home employees be required to be online during specific times? Will you have a blanket policy, or will you need to adjust for each team or department depending on their roles?

Adjustments to the Office Environment

Even with relaxed precautions, offices spaces may require some reconfiguration for health and safety reasons. You may want to consider an open floorplan to create more distancing for employees. Many companies plan to move away from standard office layouts in which every employee has a dedicated workspace. Instead, they plan to reconfigure their space for hot-desking, hoteling and other coworking models.

Many companies are also repurposing large conference rooms, breaking up those spaces into multiple smaller huddle rooms that can be used for informal meetings and rapid collaboration. These rooms are typically outfitted with high-quality audio visual and unified communications (UC) technologies.

Adjusting Collaboration Technologies

Video meetings enable remote employees to connect with supervisors, team members, colleagues and customers, but the technology has its downsides. Research shows that nearly half of professionals working remotely reported a high degree of fatigue as a direct result of numerous daily video calls. Although many are eager to return to face-to-face engagements, don’t be too quick to abandon video collaboration.

In a hybrid workplace, video meetings will still be required — but perhaps with less frequency. In addition, collaboration technologies allowed companies to hire and train remote workers from other cities or other states throughout the pandemic. It would be a mistake to stand pat on your current communication and collaboration technology. Instead, assess the tools you’ve been using and consider upgrades and enhancements to improve the telework experience.

Reevaluate Cloud Usage

Cloud sprawl became an issue during the rushed transition to remote work. Employees and management alike were quick to access cloud applications and services that would help them get their work done outside the office. However, the uncontrolled proliferation of cloud instances results in wasted resources, unexpected costs and potential security issues.

Companies should conduct a thorough inventory of their cloud apps and services and eliminate any that are no longer being used. Additionally, it’s a good time to evaluate service contracts and equipment warranties to determine if you’re paying for anything you don’t need. Consolidating contracts and eliminating unnecessary or redundant services can help your right-size your technology budget.