How to Build a Return to Office Plan for Your Team

Catherine Tansey
January 18, 2022
return to office, hybrid work, return to work

The return-to-work timeline has been pushed out so many times that many wonder if a permanent return date will ever come. 

Despite some rallying calls to eliminate the office entirely, Eden Workplace’s Workforce Sentiment survey found 70% of employees who have gone back to the office have enjoyed it, and our Return to Office survey showed the majority of employees want access to a physical work space. 

Yet the recent Omicron outbreaks outline the importance of bringing employees back in a way that prioritizes worker safety, wellbeing, and comfort—aka, on their own terms. This latest wave of COVID cases also highlights the continued importance of social distancing and COVID safety tools to prevent the spread of disease and protect the workforce. 

Below are four tips to support HR teams, operations professionals, and office managers in building their return to the office plan in 2022. 

1. Survey employees

Today businesses are experiencing high rates of turnover coupled with talent scarcity. To remain competitive and risk losing further talent, businesses must take cues from the workforce and ensure employees feel heard—especially in regard to workplace safety and work-life balance. 

Ideally, you’ve already been surveying employees throughout the pandemic to keep a pulse on the employee experience and workforce preference. 

As you develop a return to work plan, be sure to once again survey your team to gain insight on:

  • How often employees would like to be in the office. 
  • What tools and tech have been or would be most helpful in the hybrid environment.
  • Employee comfort level on returning to work given the current climate of the pandemic. 

Consider segmenting data by gender identification, department, geography, and generation to glean more specific insights from your team. Use the survey results to guide workplace policies where applicable, like in determining the exact makeup of your company’s hybrid workplace plan. 

2. Make sure your tech stack is on point

In the hybrid workplace arrangement, employees are working from near and far.

Businesses need tools and tech that bridge communication and collaboration no matter where employees are located. Additionally, since workers won’t be in the office everyday, you want technologies in place that help maximize the business impact of on-site in-person time. 

In your preparation to return to the office, be sure to have the following in place as part of your tech stack:

  • Office messenger, like Slack or Microsoft Teams
  • Desk booking software
  • Project management tools
  • HR software
  • Whiteboard apps
  • Screen recording apps

For more on how to build a hybrid-friendly tech stack, see our recent article on the tools you need to set up a great hybrid workplace.

3. Ensure employee comfort and safety

In the past few months, record numbers of people have voluntarily left their jobs, as part of a trend dubbed the Great Resignation. A major driving force behind these departures is worker sentiment of poor treatment by employers during the pandemic. And in 2022 and beyond, employers who prioritize profits or operations over employee wellbeing are sure to see even more employees walk out the door. 

Research company Gartner found that businesses can have outsized impact on employees—positively or negatively—during particular events, or “moments that matter,” over the course of their employment. 

“In HR, ‘moments that matter’ are the moments that impact an employee’s organizational experience most significantly throughout their day, year and career,” wrote Gartner in an article on their website. 

The birth of a child, an employee’s first day, the need for personal leave, a global health crisis, these are all examples of “moments that matter.” And businesses have an opportunity to boost engagement with their workforce by navigating these events with care, or risk losing employees to competitors.

To ease employee anxiety, have a clear exposure response plan in place and take the appropriate health screening measures to minimize the likelihood of needing to execute it. COVID team safety software protects your workforce and workplace with features like health questionnaires, vaccine status tracking, contact tracing, and social distance planning and enforcement. 

Investing in software to support workplace health and safety also signals to employees that their employer is committed to protecting workers. 

4. Assess your physical space

The current Omicron outbreak has reiterated the importance of social distancing. As you consider a return to the office, review the current physical layout of the office to promote workplace safety. 

Desk booking and room scheduling tools are helpful, especially when reconfiguring the entire office isn’t a possibility. With just a few clicks, team members can secure their workspace for the day, and administrators can proactively block-off space to ensure appropriate distance between workers and set capacity limits on conference rooms. 

Together, desk booking and room scheduling software allow you to effectively establish contact tracing for your company—without the error-prone process of manually tracking who is in the office and when. 

If an employee tests positive for COVID, system administrators can quickly find out which individuals and teams have used conference rooms, desks, and other workspace spaces in the office. They can also review desk booking analytics to view which employees were present in the office that day and inform them of possible exposure.  

Returning to the office requires advance planning

Going back to in-office work comes with a lot of considerations. Businesses must ensure the physical space can support the health requirements of today while ensuring employees feel safe, cared for, and heard. 

Hybrid workplace arrangements are new, and so demand a new set of tools and technologies to support them, like desk booking and COVID team safety software. With the right plan in place, businesses can ensure a smooth transition back to the office in whatever form it takes. 

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