Just 13% of UK employees working within information and communications industries have returned to the office, according to the latest data from the ONS which looks at the business impact of Covid-19. The majority, it seems, are sticking with remote working.
Whilst it’s a small figure, it’s vital that businesses don’t overlook those who want to work in the physical office, especially if that number starts to grow. Many people have enjoyed the benefits of remote working – such as more leisure and family time thanks to no commute – but others have struggled with feelings of isolation and a less than optimal home workstation.
The priority for staff returning to the bricks and mortar office, of course, will be their health and safety. Monitoring office capacity levels, having a swift communications plan in cases of emergency, and regularly assessing the office environment should form part of your office reopening strategy.
You can manage these aspects of office safety using the digital workplace tools that are already ingrained into your business. By utilising tech that your staff are familiar with, such as your intranet software, you can make it easier for your office-based teams to get to grips with new safety measures. Here’s how your intranet will help you manage workplace safety:
Monitor and manage office capacity
If your business is reopening its physical office, it’s likely that you conducted a risk assessment to understand how many employees can work in the office whilst remaining socially distant. And depending on how many staff want to return, you may need to stagger start and finish times or create a rota to limit capacity – so keeping track of who’s in or out of the office is essential.
Use your intranet’s holiday planner app as a tool to monitor office capacity, where staff are required to “book” time in the office like they would if they were requesting holiday or reporting sickness. You can include an approval process so that managers can deny the request if all available desks have been taken. This data can feed into an intranet homepage widget too, which will automatically display people’s working location that day and next, giving everyone full disclosure.
Logging the days that staff work from the office also gives you a historical record of who was where and when, providing you with your own version of a “track and trace” system that can help you contact staff if there’s a potential outbreak.
See which staff are working from where by adding a widget to your intranet homepage
Communicate updates quickly if there’s an emergency
If there’s a potential Covid-19 case in the office, staff should be notified immediately. Even if the risk remains low, it’s vital that all affected office-based workers are aware and advised of the next steps as quickly as possible – the historical data from your holiday planner app will help you get in touch with the right staff.
Use your intranet announcements tool to communicate the details to the relevant members of staff. You can restrict intranet access until people have read and accepted the notification, and track who has yet to confirm acknowledgement. Broadcast the announcement via multiple channels, such as email, internal system notification, and intranet pop-up banner, to ensure it reaches everyone.
Communicate urgent updates to your staff using your intranet announcement app
Create a survey to assess the office environment
Reopening the office for the first time in months is a big step and, like any large and unknown project, it may take a few attempts to get it right.
Sharing regular intranet surveys and polls is a good way to understand which parts of your office reopening were successful, and which areas need improving. Ask staff how safe they feel in the office, whether they need more equipment such as additional hand sanitiser stations or face masks, or if they need extra management support. Use the data to create an action plan for moving forward, and keep consulting with your staff as health and safety guidelines change.