As COVID-19 vaccines roll out and restrictions roll back, many businesses are preparing for employees to return to work at the office or place of business. Whether full time or in a remote-hybrid capacity, a large majority of executives anticipate that at least half of employees will be back working in offices by July 2021*.

Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace. As such, business owners and managers should be creating detailed plans and clearly communicating them to their staff to ensure employees are safe and feeling assured of their safety. All of this requires a mix of straight forward solutions and innovative thinking. Here are ideas businesses should consider as they prepare for reopening.

Rethink common processes

Special attention should be made to mitigate or eliminate physical contact among staff. One way to do that is to rethink common processes that typically required person-to-person interaction. For instance, companies that held multiple in-person meetings every day may need to scale back. A lot of time brainstorming and collaborating can continue to happen virtually even when people are physically in the office.

Another process that typically requires physical contact is receiving and distributing deliveries. Pitney Bowes’ smart parcel lockers can be a useful, contactless solution to overcrowded mailrooms — especially at larger organizations. Built custom to your company’s needs, parcels are distributed to individual lockers instead of face-to-face. The recipient receives an alert on their phone, scans a barcode, then their locker opens and they can pick up their package. Additionally, the lockers can help mitigate risk of lost, misplaced, or stolen packages.

Reimagine your entire office space

If your office has simply been a space for people to sit and do work, then perhaps it’s time to ask yourself if you even need an office space at all. The signing of new leases and the renewals of existing leases fell 36% last year compared with 2019**. Instead, many businesses are planning to utilize shared working spaces when teams need to come together for meetings.

Companies that are maintaining offices are reimagining how they utilize the space to optimize collaboration and productivity. This goes beyond open floorplans. Moving forward, it’s likely that workplaces will feature fewer desks and individual offices and more spaces for creative, socially distanced collaboration.

New ways to encourage interactions

Even though many people have taken well to remote work, many still are firm believers in physical office spaces. An overwhelming majority of employees surveyed for a recent report indicated that working in an office is critical for collaboration and building relationships*.

Offices across the U.S. will be using plastic shields and partitions in areas such as reception, conference rooms, and at individual desks. Still, there are ways to encourage casual interactions while staying distanced and safe.

Pitney Bowes, for instance, says that its customers are implementing numerous innovative solutions to replace typical water cooler talk. Some are developing smart bars, virtual cafes, and specific times for specific employees to connect. This can help maintain interaction among colleagues while offering greater peace of mind.

Post-pandemic workforces will need time and patience while adapting to so many changes. Whatever steps you take to prepare your office for a return to work, remember that employee buy-in is a must.

*PwC’s US Remote Work Survey – January 12, 2021

**CBRE, via Axios

Source: Entrepreneur