Ready to take your office out of its Covid-19 mothballs? Who isn’t! Now that most of the country is in “Phase 2” or better, we’re all hoping the worst of the crisis is behind us. But some of the changes the Pandemic has brought to our personal and professional lives will be with us for a long while.
This means social distancing, which we’ve all been doing daily, will continue once we’re back at work. We’re still trying to keep each other safe, but it’s a different thing to achieve at an office compared to a supermarket. If you’re planning on reopening your business over the next month or so, here are five things you’ll need to do to keep your team safe, happy and productive once they return.
- Clustered Workdays
Remote working, telecommuting…whatever you want to call it, no one’s coming into the office every day for a long time- maybe never. Even so, you’ll need to get people back to the office to some extent, and the best way to do this is to shift your operating structure to a project-based model. It’s simple: you’re putting together a big presentation, and you need your team on site, working together to get it done.
Book the team members you need and a skeletal support crew for however many days it takes to get the project done. If necessary, put them up in a nearby hotel and shuttle them to and from the office, which will cut down their commutes and reduce their possible exposure to anyone who might have or be carrying Covid-19. Bring in meals (including dinners – late nights are fine if everyone is working to get done, be safe and get back home to their families). Once the presentation is finished, let your team members return to their homes to do any follow-up, maintenance and marketing to make the project successful.
- Staggered Workdays
You probably have departments you need open every day: billing, accounts payable, customer service, administration, IT…the ball bearings that keep the wheels turning. These are the jobs it’s especially hard to do from home, as they’re dependent not only on your operations, but your infrastructure as well.
To get people in these departments back to work, it’s best to stagger their workdays. If you’ve got more than one person in each or a few of these departments, divide up the number of days amongst department members so there are fewer people in the office, and let everyone work from home on Fridays. If you’re a smaller company with one person in each department, offer each of these employees a clustered workday option and only when your project teams are working at home. The goal here is, of course, to reduce the number of people in your office at any one time.
- Child Care
Anyone at your company with children has probably been at home with them every day since the third week of March. Schools that had moved online are now closed, and it looks like most summer camps are canceled. This means the kids will be home all summer long! If you want to get your team members back to the office, even for a few days a week, they’re going to need child care. You don’t need to help them procure it, as most parents, even now, can find a decent babysitter. However, providing your staff with a child care stipend will go a long way to improving individual and team productivity.
Provide the stipend even to those whom you allow to work from home. Even if they use it to send the kids out for a pizza or burgers at Shake Shack with one of their grandparents, you’re giving them a valuable hour to focus – to speak to you via video call without interruption or to just come up with new ideas. Be generous and take the kids out of their hair for a few hours a day. You’ll be repaid handsomely in productivity.
A lot of big tech companies, including Apple and Google, have staff canteens where employees can eat delicious, healthy meals and snacks and fuel up with gourmet coffees and other beverages – for free. Why? It keeps people at work and away from nutritionally-bereft fast food. Once you bring people back to the office, the less often they leave the building, the less likely they are to risk exposure to the virus. Giving them healthy food like salads, whole wheat pastas, fresh fruit and lean meats, will help them maintain overall health and strengthen their immune systems. If you’ve got people at your office, give them a reason to hang around and make it a healthy reason. And, as an added bonus, bringing in food and beverages gives you a chance to support local businesses.
- Keep It Clean
This is obvious, but make sure to double your efforts to keep your office clean – make it sparkle. This will keep everyone safe, healthy, and inspired. The cleanliness of your space will make your staff feel reassured and protected, and most people, even those famed for messy desks, love working in a clean, fresh space. And, again, bringing in more custodial staff gives you a chance to help local businesses. Make sure to put up handwashing posters in your lavatories and kitchens (order them free from the CDC here), put a bottle of hand sanitizer on every desk, and place boxes of masks and gloves in your common areas. Take all of the simple, necessary steps required to keep everyone healthy and safe.
- I’m on LInkedIn 24-7 – let me know what else you think might be necessary to get up and running. And good luck to you and your team!