Many workers across the country are slowly returning to the office as COVID lockdown orders are lifted. For many, this means giving up their cushy work-from-home situations. So, what can business owners and HR managers do to make the transition back to the office a little more manageable?
Well, we’ve got your back. Below, we’ve assembled some unique office features you may want to incorporate as well as some new perks you may want to offer your employees. Keep reading to learn how to make your office space an enjoyable and productive environment for your workers.
More Private Offices and Hygiene Safeguards
Sure, the open office has been popularized in the last few decades as a way to save on overhead costs while encouraging inter-departmental communication. Unfortunately, open offices aren’t ideal in the middle of a pandemic.
You should plan to revamp your office space if it’s currently open-office style by creating enclosed areas that limit contact between people. You may even want to place arrows on the floor to show people where to walk in high traffic areas.
Other sensible additions and changes you may want to make include:
- Sneeze guards
- Removal of shared kitchen area
- Close all common areas like lounges
- Revamp your HVAC to encourage freshly circulated air
- Touchless, automatic doors
- Desks spread at least six feet apart
You might find that your current office space doesn’t work for your new needs while the virus is still a major issue. In this case, it’s best to invest in a larger office space that allows six feet of distance between workers.
Remote Work and Flexible Work Options
Tons of workers prefer working remotely for the majority of the time. There are some instances, however, where in-person office meetings just make more sense. Plus, remote work can mean you lose a sense of collaboration and office culture.
If you don’t want to let your employees work remotely 100% of the time, consider allowing them a “mostly-remote” work situation instead. For example, you can require employees to come in one or two days a week for in-person meetings. You can stagger which departments come in on which days to limit the number of people in the office at once.
Another option is to stagger the times that employees come into the office. Some people are naturally morning people, while others are late-risers. Instead of forcing all employees to come in at once, consider allowing employees to come in when they want — under the condition they get all of their required work done.
Access to Flexible Workspaces
Some business owners might not see any use for an in-person office at all, but some employees don’t have dedicated workspaces that can be used for sensitive office work. One potential solution is giving employees access to flexible workspaces.
These office spaces can be used on-demand, whether someone needs it for just an hour or the entire day. Flexible office spaces are available all over the country, which might be better for employees who live farther away from HQ.
Dog-Friendly Office Space
Your employees might feel stressed upon returning to a traditional office space. To stop any stress from building up, consider allowing your employees to bring in their well-behaved dogs. Dogs and other suitable pets have been shown to reduce stress in the office space.
Replace Traditional In-Office Perks
Many companies offer catered lunches, happy hours, and other in-office perks that employees probably won’t be able to take advantage of when they return to the office. Many of these activities require shared goods and larger groups of people gathering together, making them ultimately unsafe in a pandemic environment.
Rather than simply eliminating these perks all together, consider incorporating a replacement perk instead. For example, some companies are offering monthly stipends for lunch deliveries and takeout. Or, you can allow employees to expense one lunch a week up to a certain dollar amount.
If you still have employees who will be 100% remote, consider sending them a care package with snacks and office-friendly beverages like cold brew coffee cans.
Put Wellness First
The pandemic has not only strained people’s health, but it’s also contributed to a great deal of uncertainty and stress. Many employees might feel anxious upon their return to work.
Consider offering perks centered around wellness. Below are a few ideas:
- Gym stipend
- Yoga subscription
- Healthy snack subscription boxes
- Outdoor group exercise classes
- Standing desk stipend
Daycare or Nanny Stipend
If you employ parents, it’s important to consider their unique work situation. Many schools are still closed in the face of the pandemic. As a result, working parents are scrambling to find a way for their children to stay safe and supervised.
As an employer, you can try to help out with a stipend for daycare or nanny costs. This can allow your employees to stay focused on work, instead of worrying about how they will meet childcare needs.
Student Loan Repayment
The economic upheaval caused by coronavirus has had a negative impact on many workers across the globe. If your company has continued to profit, you may want to consider passing along some of those profits in the form of student loan repayment help.
Takeaways: Reintroduction to the Office
Although many workers are excited to go back to the office, many others are more hesitant. It’s important to ensure that the office your workers return to is properly set up to handle the challenges of the pandemic. Put safety and hygiene first, and then you can start to think about what kinds of perks and benefits to offer employees.
Above all, it’s crucial to be flexible. Some states might implement rolling lockdowns that restrict office work after periods of relative freedom. A good compromise is using flexible working spaces that allow workers to meet up in small groups, but without the large gatherings required to work out of your traditional office headquarters. Use this article as a foundation for changes to make to your own office and ensure that your employees stay safe and comfortable.
About the Author
Samantha Rupp holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and is the managing editor for 365businesstips.com. She lives in San Diego, California, and enjoys spending time on the beach, reading up on current industry trends, and traveling.