No doubt you are working through a plan for allowing your team to return to the office. The challenge you are facing is to create return-to-office policies that support everyone.
You are probably in one of two camps right now. Either your business is a business that is customer-facing. You have an office where you provide services directly to the customer and therefore you need to open your office back up in order to successfully get back up and running. Or, you have an office that you use to have your team come together for collaboration and work, but working in the office isn’t required to successfully run your business.
Most of us who are trying to reopen our offices at this point are in the latter camp. This means that for us to successfully run our businesses, we can continue to stay remote. Returning to the office isn’t required. This is critically important to remember as you create policies around returning to the office.
The first policy you need to consider is masked. While some people may feel masks are unnecessary, there could be at least one person working on your team that would feel safer personally wearing and having others wearing masks. You need to create a policy requiring your team to wear a mask so that no one on your team is forced to create the policy themselves. Peer pressure is fierce and you do not want any of your employees to feel like they cannot keep themselves safe or that they have to compromise what they value in order to show their loyalty to you and the company. Don’t damage the trust they have in you because you want to keep the environment “flexible.”
The second policy to consider is mandating a return date. Many of your employees have children. With childcare unavailable, camps being canceled, not having any family members close by to help, or maybe having a family but those family members are high risks, parents will have to continue to work from home to be both a parent and an employee. If you require everyone to return to work, you will be asking them to essentially choose between their children and their job. This isn’t a choice they can make, nor should they have to. Again, don’t damage the trust they have in you. Allow your team to decide if they want to work remotely, return to the office, or a hybrid of the two. Allowing flexibility for all employees ensures parents do not feel they have to choose and it allows all employees to decide which environment is better for them overall.
These are the two key policies you should establish if you focus on nothing else. Other pieces to consider would be things like social distancing the desks, meeting spaces, and cleaning standards.
The overall goal in this situation is to be clear as to what the expectations are, what is required, and that you create an environment where all employees feel supported.
If you are working on returning your team to the office, think through how you can do that with these considerations in mind. None of this will be easy, but as long as you put your employees first, you will be successful. Your goal is to create return-to-office policies that support everyone.