The onset of the Coronavirus Pandemic last year ushered in a new normal for society, one where all aspects of our lives were upended, and companies scrambled to adapt as a nightmarish tragedy unfolded. The rapid shift to work from home was just one of the significant changes that companies had to make to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees, and in some cases, even ensure the survival of the company itself.
The new year’s start has brought new developments and a renewed sense of hope that our fortunes may finally change. While a post-pandemic world is beginning to appear on the horizon, the truth is that life will never return to the same normal we knew before.
That is not to say that we will continue to be plagued by COVID-19 in the years to come; instead, the painful adjustments and lessons we learned will shape our way of life for the foreseeable future, including in business.
With vaccination efforts in the United States ramping up tremendously and cases nationwide showing an encouraging downward trend, company executives would be wise to start planning how their businesses will operate from mid to late 2021 and beyond. Below, we have put together a few considerations we believe are worth contemplating when you begin the process of crafting your companies plan.
You won’t be able to please everyone when deciding between work-from-office or work-from-home
A US remote-work study by PwC shows that a good majority of employees consider the work from home model as being successful, pointing to benefits such as increased comfort, convenience, and a better work-life balance versus strictly working from the office. However, there are still employees who struggled with the transition to working remotely, and if offered the opportunity, would prefer returning to work from an office environment. Some employees benefit from the structure and collaborative environment an office can provide, preferring to collaborate with peers face-to-face rather than through a screen.
The chances your workforce will come to a unanimous decision on this matter are slim to none. The correct approach is to eliminate this question and establish a hybrid model that will satisfy your employees and serve as a transition to what will be an ever-increasing normal way of life at many companies. Open your office space back up to employees who prefer it, but don’t enforce a one-or-the-other situation. Continue to provide them with flexibility and allow for employees to split their time between in-person and remote potentially. This approach also makes the task of promoting health-conscious practices even more straightforward by reducing the number of employees at the office at any given time and allowing for a more spread-out office layout that can ensure social distancing.
Flexibility will be king, especially in your office space
On the topic of your office, the post-covid transition will also provide a valuable opportunity for you to reinvent your space and try new concepts that boost both morale and productivity. Connecting back to the hybrid work approach discussed earlier, reworking your office and removing assigned workspaces can go a long way to helping manage your workforce. Doing this goes hand-in-hand with the flexibility your hybrid approach will provide employees with, resulting in increased comfort and collaboration.
The return to the office would also be a great time to invest capital on items and products that would increase employee productivity. The use of dual monitors has been picking up steam as of late, as the increased screen real estate offers a tangible boost in multi-tasking capability and overall productiveness. Other possibilities include modular furniture that makes it easier for employees to move around and collaborate, pods designed for taking calls privately, and technological equipment such as printers, fax machines, and projectors that can be controlled using smart devices.
Continue to push innovation with tech
The CoronaVirus Pandemic brought technological innovation, the likes of which were never seen before. While products such as Zoom were already in use at some companies, the shift to work from home turned the video-conferencing software into an indispensable tool nearly overnight. The same goes for all the productivity tools and suites that have played a vital role throughout the past year, including Asana, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and so many others. These tools may have taken off with the pandemic, but they won’t be leaving with it, and the pipeline of revolutionary software and technology being built as a result will not dry up any time soon. Don’t cast these products to the side once you return to the office; instead, embrace the fact they are here to stay and continue implementing them in the day-to-day operations of your business.
Prepare for the tough conversation regarding Vaccination
Our last consideration is one that is not to be taken lightly, as your stance on the matter will impact the entirety of your workforce, no matter what. While the vaccination of employees is the most beneficial outcome both for your company and society, you need to be sensitive in approaching the topic and understand that there will be hesitation from some employees. No matter what, Do not implement a strategy that forces employee vaccination. The choice to vaccinate ultimately comes down to the individual, and strong-arming employees will only cause alienation that could prove irreversible.
Instead, the correct approach is to be upfront with your employees and have an open conversation with them, and puts their thoughts into consideration. You can establish a pro-vaccine stance and recommend that employees take it when possible, but understand that this is not a decision that you as a leader can make alone. The truth is that measures such as social distancing, increased hygiene, and testing will not fade away soon, regardless of whether your entire workforce vaccinates or not.
February marks a year since the first traces of COVID-19 began to pop up in the United States, and a growing sense of nervousness about what may happen soon turned into an unimaginable crisis. A year in, the tides of the fight against the virus finally appear to be shifting, and the hope of better days continues to grow. There is much work to be done before we get there, but it never hurts to get ahead of the curve and be prepared for the next-normal that is fast-approaching.