If there’s one thing that employers have learnt from the experience of dealing with COVID19, is that working from home can work and work well, however, the return to a near-normal working life is inevitable.
The relaxation of the lockdown rules and the re-emergence from the seclusion of home work-life means that many of us will feel anxious about the return to work. The potential exposure to COVID19 in your office and workplace is a risk, however, you will have new rules, and new methods of working that will protect you. It is important to keep in mind that this is the same job role you have had for the last few months and that you are more than capable of fulfilling the job, it’s just a new way of working, with the addition of a socially distanced and COVID-19 aware approach.
These tips will help transition you and help get you prepared to walk back into your workplace, with confidence, playing your part in protecting yourself, the business and customers from risk.
1. Reconsider Your Route Into The Office
The journey back to work itself can be daunting. For lots of us, the daily commute became a thing of the past and the furthest place to walk was down to your kitchen to grab a cuppa.
Subsequently, there are lots of things you can do to travel safely whilst you’re using public transport that will minimise the risk of contagion and ease you back into a routine. The rush hour will be extremely busy and could be a tad overwhelming, if possible, you may wish to explore with your employers’ ways to avoid travelling at peak times.
It is essential to use masks and hand sanitiser whilst on public transport such as buses and trains. Be mindful of your distance from others and plan all the ‘touchpoints’ you may come into contact with on your journey.
2. Observe new ways of working
It is evident that changes will have been made in your workplace, to fit in with new regulations. Observe the new ways of working and make your transition back to the office easier, make a mental note of the changes in your once familiar surroundings and assimilate it, as this will be the new normal for a while and it’s important to take time to feel comfortable in-office settings again.
Some changes may find that collaborative office desks and hot desks may no longer exist, and employers will opt to spread out employees. Team meetings may take place virtually via Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and we might even have to wear protective clothing in some professions for compliance reasons, so soak up as many of the new rules as possible!
3. Avoid sharing equipment
Where possible, it would be best to avoid sharing office equipment, helping minimise the spread of germs. Office users are always sharing documents, files and even teaspoons to stir coffees, so this will be a challenge for lots of people. If it is unavoidable then clean and wipe down after each use.
There are some excellent office products which promote individual use, such as the Nobo Glass Desktop Whiteboard. A personal favourite of mine. The Whiteboard sits on your desk under your computer and is an easy way to jot down notes and memos, and can be erased with a simple wipe. This is a good alternative to using paper documents and sharing between colleagues.
4. Display staying alert signs
If your desk is located in a busy area where a lot of people walk past, you may wish to ask your employer to put additional signage up reminding colleagues and customers to keep a safe distance.
A poster frame sign is a great tool for clearly displaying the latest guidance and social distancing information. It can be frustrating trying to work and constantly dealing with the hustle and bustle surrounding your desk, so signage is something your employer should consider investing in.
5. Cut back on face-to-face meetings
If home working has taught us anything, it’s that there are many great virtual tools for keeping in touch with colleagues. Even long after COVID-19, it’s likely that virtual meetings will become more common, (Cue the Zoomcalls!).
If your anything like myself, Zoom calls became the norm and now the thought of an actual face to face meeting is a little strange. It is good that we have gotten used to this, as even when we return to the office it is probable that virtual meetings will still be an essential form of communication.
6. Brainstorm creatively
When you return to working in an office, you might want to call upon colleagues for brainstorming sessions. Ensure you adhere to social distancing guidelines, keep 2 metres apart and avoid large groups.
7. Social Distancing
Human contact may be the one thing we miss most about office life. Yet, it’s important to resist the temptation to sit close to our friends and congregate in groups.
Social Distancing has become an integral part of workplaces allowing staff to get back to a safe working environment.
Until a true vaccine has been developed, this is the new norm! The importance of keeping two metres apart and avoiding large groups can not be overstated as we see an influx of office-based workers returning to their jobs.
Increasing hygiene awareness at work will help to prevent the spread of infection. Hand gels, anti-bacterial wipes and face masks will be a way of life, and the need for these will already have been assessed and or provided by your employer if it deemed to be required.
Take Returning to Work in Your Stride
These 7 tips are just some easy ways to make your return to work a little more bearable. The return will be a slow and staggered process, depending on your industry, spread risk and exposure threat. One thing for sure is that COVID-19 will not be going away until a vaccine is made available.
This year has been a huge test for workplaces and their employees, and now as things start to slowly ease back to normality, it is important that you remain vigilant play your part in protecting yourself, the business you work for and your associates from risk. Follow all the guidelines and take the transition of a return to work in your stride towards a healthy 2021!