After the quarantine, things will return to normal (or whatever the new normal will look like). The compulsory stay-at-home laws will be repealed and some other restrictions will be lifted making return to regular work for many employees across India the next logical thing to do.
It is therefore highly important for businesses to make proper plans for a reintroduction to life in the office. These back-to-work plans must ensure safety for the workers, encouragement for them as well as profitability for businesses. Failure to do so can prove dangerous to the health of the workers and the business itself.
Not all businesses can be profitably operated through remote working, and the return to normalcy is a breath of fresh air for such organizations. But how can this transition back to office life be carried out in a safe yet productive manner?
Ways to return to work after the quarantine
Reconfigure office arrangement: When work resumes, businesses still need to follow social distancing and hygiene regulations that were effected during the pandemic. The work environment will have to be reconfigured to accommodate the new reality. Office seating arrangements will need restructuring. Companies may consider using transparent shields to divide office desks. Also separating entrances from exits at workplaces to keep social distancing laws in effect will go a long way in ensuring the safety of workers and customers.
Ensure proper management of employee numbers: With the "6-feet distancing" regulations in place, normal office activities won't be as they were pre-Covid-19. Most workplaces won't accommodate all their workers at the same time. It is only wise to create an effective arrangement for rotating employees' work days. Ensure that the rotation is done in such a way that every arm of the business is still run effectively while worker distancing is still in check. Rotation will limit the risk of spreading viruses in the workplace because the more workers there are in the office at any given time, the higher the chances of contracting the virus. This mean that there will have to be a lot of shifts going on in different offices. Employees need to always be aware of their shifts on time so as not to cripple business activities. Managing employee numbers may mean that some employees will have to lose their current jobs and they will need to find work elsewhere.
Continue some remote work: After the lockdown is over, it is advisable to carefully consider every role and decide if some activities can be carried out remotely at least for some months. Some companies will prefer to maintain remote working due to economic reasons while others may be forced to return to the work-from-home life of Covid-19 especially if they are located in high threat areas or if a worker suddenly contracts the virus. After careful consideration, work that can be carried out remotely should remain that way for some time because going back and forth between working centrally and working remotely can take a heavy toll on the business. It is therefore advisable to keep both options open in case of any unforeseen eventualities. A good communication system will be highly beneficial to keep businesses running smoothly in this situation.
Restore workplace motivation: A lot of things got changed when the world was hit with the virus. And due to the fact that many employees have been away from their places of work for a long period of time, restarting the office work life may be somewhat unsettling. Also staff members may never see some of their colleagues again. It is important that business leaders maintain an atmosphere of positivity in the work environment to ensure maximum productivity. Management needs to attend to the concerns of employees in a sensitive manner especially during this period. Businesses need to be more human than ever before in relating with team members to get the best from them.
Possible stepping stones
The Covid-19 situation has helped many businesses create more productive work routines and also rethink what is important and what is not. For companies who the majority of their workforce can work remotely, it may help save the cost of acquiring large office spaces and other infrastructure.
Another thing the pandemic did was to force companies to better the communication between employees and management. The importance of effective communication at work has been realized by many business leaders and it is only wise to not relax it post Covid-19. The quarantine has seen many organizations communicate much more frequently with their staff over the last couple of months than they did before the lockdown. Keeping the lines of communication open between leadership and staff will ensure increased productivity.
Positive health practices have also been reinforced in many businesses as a result of the pandemic.
How to avoid post quarantine stress
The transition back to the regular office work may be very stressful if care is not taken. The secret to return to normal work in a stress free manner is to have effective short term and long term plans in place for the safety of workers and for the productivity of the organization. Many things have been learned over the last couple of months and new ways of doing things have emerged. Organizations should incorporate these lessons learned into their back-to-work plans.
Should remote work take the day?
Working remotely has been the only option for many businesses since the pandemic, but should this trend continue after the lockdown has been lifted? Should remote working take the place of working centrally? Truth is remote work should be seen as an option and not as a policy.
Why it may be more productive to work from the office
There are many reasons why it may be more profitable for companies to work in the office rather than work remotely.
One of such reasons is a sense of community. Working in an office space creates an air of camaraderie and it goes a long way in ensuring that the work cultures of organizations remain entrenched in workers. When teammates only communicate via video calls or chat, it dampens work culture and that sense of community as a result of being physically in the same place is lost as well.
There are more distractions working remotely than working in an office environment. Because of this, work that should take two hours to complete in an office setting without distractions may take well over five hours to accomplish when done at home due to various distractions and lack of supervision. For a lot of employees who can work efficiently without supervision, working remotely may not be so much of a bad thing but what of those who need to be monitored closely before they can deliver?
Another reason why working in the office is more profitable than remote work is that work can be managed more easily and the productivity of workers can also be better evaluated. Workers can also be held accountable more effectively if they are working in an office. Remote work on the other hand may not be as easy to manage as many of the traditional management strategies won't work with a remote team. It is quite harder to hold remote workers accountable.
Security issues are a major concern when it comes to working remotely. Theft of company hardware and sensitive data is a big source of worry. It may be more profitable to keep some sensitive information and hardware within the confines of an office building where they are relatively safe from physical theft and online hacking.
Returning to work in the regular office environment is of utmost necessity and the fact that remote working has helped manage some things during the quarantine shouldn't mean the demise of regular office work. Remote work should be seen as an option in running businesses and not a replacement of usual office work.