A recent CDC report reveals that employees working in an office setting almost double their COVID-19 risk, pushing many companies to reevaluate their return-to-the-office or long-term plans. As companies become fully settled into this remote working way of life, businesses must ensure that their plans are sustainable, can keep employees safe, continue to foster corporate culture, and set up employees for productivity and success.
COVID-19 has turned the workplace on its head. Before the pandemic, employees would spend most, if not all, of the working week at the office, with perhaps a day working from home if they were lucky. Companies invested in making their offices comfortable workspaces in the hope that employees would want to spend a lot of time there and provided perks such as paying for dinner for employees working late. For the time being, this has all changed, with most employees either working from home exclusively or working according to a hybrid model, combining working from home and working at the office.
With the findings that employees are doubling their COVID risk by working in the office, companies need to evaluate whether employees’ physical presence at the workplace is actually required. Even with hybrid arrangements in place, employees shouldn’t be expected to come into the office, even on their designated day(s) if there is no specific purpose for them to do so.
Every team within the company should decide when they want to meet in-person at the office, whether it’s once a week, once a month, or twice per quarter, and what they want to achieve from the face-to-face meeting. It could be for brainstorming, training, or team bonding, but it should fulfill a specific need, rather than just to see everyone’s face or to tick a box that they came into the office for a certain number of days that month.
To comply with local COVID regulations and ensure there aren’t too many people in the office at any time, HR teams should set up a system that monitors the number of employees coming into the office. This can be done using Hibob’s “work from office” request functionality on the bob platform, enabling HR to manage requests, monitor headcount, and keep a record of who was in the office on any given day, which would be helpful in the event that someone ends up testing positive for COVID and people need to be informed and quarantined.
However, the measures that workplaces take should not stop at logistics. People are going through difficult times and it’s important that managers reach out to their teams, ask how everyone is doing, and if there’s anything they need. A survey conducted by Hibob that examined mental health at work revealed that since the pandemic started in March 2020, self-stated mental wellness has dropped by a staggering 27 percent. Companies need to take these numbers seriously and consider redesigning their benefits packages to include mental wellness programs and resources. This could include establishing time off and time out policies to minimize burnout, offering counseling services to those who need them, or providing stipends for employees to purchase equipment to comfortably set up their home offices.
The wants and needs of your teams may surprise you. Request employee feedback by conducting company-wide surveys that ask employees how they are feeling and coping, and what the company can do to help make things easier for them. This could include offering the option to work from home permanently, to come to the office once or twice a week, or something else entirely. The responsibility lies with HR and management to listen to their employees and create a successful hybrid structure and working environment that people feel comfortable with. Conducting the survey is just the first step. All of the data collected needs to be carefully analyzed to take the right actions—another useful feature offered on the bob platform.
Access to Technology
Another important way to support your teams while working remotely is to make sure they have access to the technology that will enable them to do their jobs efficiently. Today’s modern tech stack includes tools for videoconferencing, document sharing, collaboration, and project management, but equally important are tools that focus on engaging and empowering employees in the workplace.
When teams are working remotely or hybrid, it can be challenging to keep your company culture alive. Engage employees by celebrating their accomplishments and milestones, such as work anniversaries, promotions, company achievements, birthdays, weddings, and new babies. At Hibob, we do this by using shoutouts and kudos posts. You also can encourage people to build relationships and connect both professionally and personally by incorporating group activities, teambuilding, and offsites into the company culture. This can be challenging when working remotely, but with bob’s Club View, employees can find like-minded individuals who share common interests or hobbies and connect to them. Companies also can get on board by creating virtual activities based on people’s interests, such as a virtual cooking class for those who enjoy the culinary arts, or a virtual watch party for all those serious sports fans, and help to connect people through these channels.
No one knows what the future holds, and how long it will be until companies return to normal. Perhaps they never will. Companies should start to make long-term plans as to what their future will be. If your employees prefer to work remotely, then keeping your lease for your large office space may not be a wise choice. Perhaps consider renting a smaller office or leasing space in a shared workspace. Make sure your employees have everything they need to work remotely for the long term, from hardware to software and office supplies. Being ahead of the curve will prepare you for any future closures or unexpected changes such as supporting employees who decide to move across the country. Resilience, flexibility, and advance planning are paramount for companies to succeed in these uncertain times.
Ronni Zehavi is the cofounder and CEO of Hibob, a transformative people management platform launched in 2015 that helps workers communicate, collaborate, and cultivate culture more effectively. Zehavi is dedicated to enhancing company culture for fast-growing businesses, and founded Hibob to provide high-growth small and mid-sized businesses across the globe with a solution for keeping up with the paradigm shift in the way people work, and improving the way they develop and maintain top talent through HR. With his 25 years of experience in the technology space, Zehavi created Hibob’s platform, bob, to give managers new and invaluable insights into their employees, while reducing the administrative burden of HR. For more information, visit: www.hibob.com.