COVID-19 Compliance Return to Office
COVID-19 Compliance Return to Office

Clear, Effective Communication is Vital For a Safe Return to the Office

Natalie FitzHugh |

In April 2020, figures released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics showed 49.2% of adults in employment were working from home, as a result of the social distancing measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

These statistics reinforce what we all know, that we are living in unprecedented times and have had to adapt to new ways of working. Whilst I have primarily been working from home for a few years now, I have still found it strange to have not gone into the office in over three months and that all of my colleagues are also based at home (although I have enjoyed seeing their home decor on remote calls!).

I know, from speaking with some of my team, that it has been difficult to adjust to working at home and making sure to get the balance right between ‘work life’ and ‘home life’. Some have definitely found it easier than others to adjust to commuting to their home office rather than their normal place of work. Whilst we have got used to this new way of working, it is important that organisations do not become complacent.

Continual communication is essential

Something that everyone I have spoken to has in common is that we have all found continual communication the key to being kept informed and in the loop when it comes to the company’s policies whilst we are in lockdown and beyond. Some organisations have found it difficult to make sure their employees are up to date with policies outlining when it is acceptable to visit the office.

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Maybe you have found that employees have been going into the office without the company’s knowledge and that a policy needs to be drafted and distributed to make employees aware that this shouldn’t be happening? Also, if there is a genuine need to go into the office, who approves this and makes sure that the employee has the appropriate access and follows the correct procedures? It definitely helps to put an automated process in place to manage these requests.

Organizations are reviewing their ‘working from home policies’ all the time as the lockdown criteria changes, but from discussions that I have had, there is no mad rush to get employees back into the office. This makes ongoing and clear communication even more important! Are you keeping employees up to date with your latest decision-making?

I cannot stress enough how important it is that employees know what the company is thinking and what the plans are. I know that the regular updates that I receive help me feel informed and that the company is thinking about me. I appreciate that these plans can and will change, but as long as that communication channel is kept open then everyone will feel like they know what is going on.

What happens when we go back in?

So, let’s talk about that day when we do start venturing back to the office. You might want to think about issuing an employee survey to see how your staff are feeling about their return and give them the chance to raise any COVID-19 concerns. This ensures that you can address any questions ahead of time and that answers are clearly communicated to everyone. Actually, this is a point I would like to emphasize – this is no time for ambiguity. You need to make sure that all of your employees are getting the same message, at the same time.

Organizations are going to have to put in place social distancing measures, such as one-way systems and appropriate distances between desks. Before your employees start heading back to the office, you need to make sure that your social distancing policies are clearly communicated and that they have been read and understood by each employee.

You might be thinking about a phased or staggered approach – again, this needs to be clear to each employee so they know when they can go into office (and when they cannot). Alongside social distancing measures, you need to think about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and how employees understand what PPE they will be expected to wear and use.

Clear, effective communication instills confidence in your employees that they are being kept up to date on the organisation’s latest plans and that they know everything they need to whilst working in these extraordinary times. Alongside this, asking for feedback from your employees makes them feel part of the decision making process.

Implementing robust policy management technology enables organisations to easily communicate with their employees, in a consistent manner, and makes sure that they have the most up-to-date information.

Alongside policy management technology, implementing a simple but highly effective workflow automation solution allows an organisation to ask their employees’ opinion and feedback.