The increasing vaccination rates and dates set for the lifting of restrictions helps to create a sense of optimism. Many businesses and employers are making plans for their employees to return to physical workplaces. There are many parts of a workplace that will need an employer’s attention to ensure that it is safe for returning employees however it can be hard to know where to start. A good starting point when considering which areas of the workplace to prioritise will include practical areas that have become important during the pandemic. During the pandemic our awareness of having a clean and well-ventilated workplace became more pronounced and as a result health and safety has become a significant priority for many organisations. Additionally, due to the speed at which organisations had to change to remote working, technology became an important consideration. Both health and safety and technology remain top considerations for returning to the workplace.
The pandemic has meant a re-evaluation of the workplace and our experience of it. Additionally, it showed to some organisations their deficiencies in technology and reemphasised the importance of ensuring the health and safety of employees while working remotely. Unsurprisingly, the events of the last 18 months are influencing how employers bring employees back to the workplace.
According to a PWC Remote Work Survey changes that some employers are considering will include workplaces with more investment in technology such as tools for virtual collaboration and IT infrastructure. Investing in technology is essential as the normalisation of hybrid and remote working becomes more pronounced and is being acknowledged as a normal part of working life by the governments National Remote Working Strategy (launched Jan 2021). The effect that the pandemic has had on businesses has meant that while there have been redundancies, there has also been many employees reconsidering their careers. Consequently, investing in technology can be used by businesses to attract new talent and retain existing employees.
The significant changes to organisations and employees over the last 18 months have changed how people view their jobs and their workplaces. Having time to reassess priorities During the pandemic, many employees reported suffering with burnout from overwork as their working days overlapped with their personal life. As a result, wellbeing and mental health have become a bigger priority for employees and influence their decisions to work for an organisation. Additionally, some high-profile organisations such as Nike are recognising the benefits of offering supports to employees for their mental health. Consequently, in a post pandemic workplace standard health and safety measures will be present but because of the pandemic discussions around mental health and wellbeing are becoming more commonplace. Although there will be many areas of concern for businesses when employees finally return to their office or place of work, supporting employees by ensuring that their physical workplace is meeting the necessary health and safety requirements, will help in alleviating apprehension.
The desire to return to something resembling normality is strong therefore, to ensure a successful transition preparing your building will be necessary. In creating a safe work environment for returning employees, the preparations that you will need to consider can be found inside our remobilisation guide. Crises rarely have nice, tidy endings and can take time to resolve. Consequently, in returning to the workplace, it is advisable to also have a re-exit plan in place in the (hopefully) unlikely event of a resurgence of the virus.
‘The Post Pandemic Workplace: What Boards should be thinking about’ (https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/governance-insights-center/library/covid-19-returning-workplace-boards.html)
Vaccination statistics (https://covid-19.geohive.ie/pages/vaccinations)
Making Remote Work: National Remote Work Strategy (2021) (https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/51f84-making-remote-work-national-remote-work-strategy/)
Rubin, Sammy (2021) ‘Empowering Employees in the Post Pandemic Era’, Leadership Excellence, August 2021.
McKeever, Vicky (2021) ‘Nike Gives Head Office Workers a Week Off to Destress’ (https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/31/nike-gives-head-office-workers-a-week-off-to-destress.html)
Thompson, Sylvia (2020) ‘Could Covid 19 help reduce stigma around mental health issues?’, Irish Times (https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/could-covid-19-pandemic-help-reduce-stigma-around-mental-health-issues-1.4309881)