Returning to work safely

Now that COVID-19 restrictions ended and working life is slowly getting back to normal, more and more businesses are facing the question of how to ensure that their staff can return safely to the workplace. However, with the remote working genie now out of the bottle, the more pressing question for companies may be: what will the new workplace look like?

Since the industrial revolution, the history of the office has gone through a number of broad shifts. With the initial creation of the office, it acted as the only place workers could carry out their daily tasks, with regulations governing how long they could spend within that workspace. In the modern age, large organisations molded the workplace into a monument to the brand.

As the knowledge economy began to value people and skills over machines and equipment, companies invested heavily in creating spaces that skilled people would want to be in. More recently, the acceleration of cloud computing has made remote working a viable model and created new implications for the position of the office.

Despite this, until the beginning of this year, the bias has remained in favour of commuting and working at the office. Within more progressive companies, the split may have typically been 80% of staff commuting and 20% working remotely.

The outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns caused this ratio to flipped, and the idea of the workplace is transforming again. Long-standing objections and obstacles that prevented the widespread adoption of remote working have been blown away in one fell swoop. Public safety trumped the preference of employers, leading to digital transformation and remote working projects being rapidly accelerated and completed within a single quarter.

Going forward, employers will have to keep at least some of these new policies and ways of working in place as many employees choose to continue to operate remotely (on either a full or part-time basis).

When considering how to return to work safely, businesses need to rethink their concept of the workplace in this new context. Here are some key considerations for employers planning a safe return to the workplace:

Limiting those in the office

Now restrictions have been lifted, employees are returning to work on either a full or part-time basis – putting an emphasis on businesses to ensure this is handled in a manageable way. This may mean continuing to keep some team members at home, rotating shifts in the office or even entirely repurposing the office as a community gathering space. For some, the office may become a place for more limited activities such as essential meetings, key group work and for new staff to meet co-workers and start their journey in a company.

Ensuring compliance

Companies who simply re-open their doors with no formal plan or discussion with staff and visitors on how to comply with official health guidelines may create an enormous insurance risk by operating in an unsafe environment. It is the employer’s obligation to ensure compliance with the recommended safety measures.

Technology has the potential to assist companies in these efforts. CWSI is making its Safety Instructions app freely available to download. Apps like these can help employers communicate key safety guidelines to staff, including social distancing measures, revised floor plans and hand hygiene advice.

Maintain security measures

Even after 18 months, the move to a working from home model is still a relatively new step for so many companies. It is very likely a large amount of employee personal devices are being used to access the company network, and it’s vital for businesses to invest in device management and enhanced security features to protect their data.

Even when employees return to the office, these security risks are still an issue because many will be adopting a hybrid working model. With people operating on a part time office and remote basis, maintaining security measures – both remotely and within the workplace – is essential.

Employees are now demanding more flexibility from their company than ever before. The onus is on employers to offer secure and productive working models for both office-based and remote workers. CWSI has almost a decade of experience in providing secure enterprise mobility solutions, and with technologies such as our Safety Instructions app, we can also offer solutions to ensure those who must return to the office, can do so safely.

Businesses must adapt to survive; something we say often. Technology is, and will always be, available to aid compliance, security and productivity for remote workers. Now, that same technology is helping businesses to safely navigate the return to work – whatever that looks like for them.

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