Work Amidst a Pandemic: A Safe Return Post Lockdown

Who would have thought at the beginning of 2020 that our prime focus in mid-year would be to look up safe ways to return to work? Well, here you are reading a post on returning to work after lockdown!

The COVID-19 crisis has put our personal and professional lives in disarray. The workforce is beginning to adjust to the virtual office away from the hustle of daily commute and white-board meetings. Employees are gradually getting the hang of ‘work from home’ culture. But, now that most countries are considering an exit from lockdown, employers are likely to plan an eventual return of employees to the physical office.

With the pandemic still raging and bleak chances of a vaccine on the current horizon, returning to work after lockdown will be unsettling due to concerns over health risks. But, all we can do is be cautious and double down on precautionary measures while we venture back to the workplace. Here are a few things you can keep in mind for a safe return to the office:

Bring Back Only The Essential Staff

Post lockdown, employers should not try to bring back all the workers at one go but instead bring them back in shifts, in a staggered manner. This is a very crucial step keeping in mind the health risk to employees.

Employers should chalk out the roles that are essential to the office and bring back the workers accordingly. For example, the facilities team and the IT workers may have to make an early comeback to set up the workplace, sanitize equipment, and get the workspace ready.

Learn more: How Should We Tackle Post-lockdown Situation?

Be Mindful of Personal Hygiene

Once you are back in the office, you will have to be extra aware of what you touch. Make sure you sanitize your hands properly every time you press the lift button or move a doorknob with bare hands. Shaking hands at client meetings will have to be avoided at all costs.

Wipe down your desk, computer screen, mouse, and keyboard with alcohol rub and a paper towel before you begin work. Wear a mask at all times, if possible. Avoid using office cutlery or wash them yourself before using them.

Lay Down New Office Rules

The corona crisis has disrupted workplace traditions, and so, everyone returning to work after lockdown will be greeted with a new set of office rules. The distance between workstations has to be increased to at least 6 ft.

Visitors entering the building could be subjected to temperature checks. The staff should be reminded about frequent hand sanitization, and social events can be avoided. Social tools like Zoom make for great alternatives to in-person meetings.

Follow Social Distancing at Work

Returning to work after lockdown does not mean that you will flout the social distancing norms that you have been following all this while. The virus is pretty active, and the need for social distancing is more than ever.

Maintain a minimum of 6 ft distance from your colleagues, avoid crowded lifts and cafeterias, as long as possible limit meetings to video conference calls, sanitize files and objects shuffling between different hands, and avoid being in a gathering of more than four people.

Change the Way You Travel to Work

For those traveling in public transport, face shields, masks, and gloves are extremely important. Where possible, use digital transactions instead of dealing with cash. Wash and clean your hands as soon as you reach the office or return home.

Revamp The Work Culture

Returning to work after lockdown will not be the same for the entire workforce. Some employees might belong to containment zones, some may reside with relatives who are at risk, and others may prefer to work from home.

In such a scenario, employers must be prepared for a large part of the working staff to stay at home. Organizations have to ensure that the technology infrastructure is stable enough to support remote work. Telecommuting protocols will have to be sufficiently flexible to level the ground between in-house staff and those working from home. 

Read: Future of Work, Jobs and Careers after COVID19

Prioritize the Emotional Well-Being of Workers

The pandemic has wreaked havoc with the mental health of many. While offices should always prioritize the psychological safety of its workers, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need to pay more attention to emotional safety procedures and practices.

Most of the workforce will have their fears and doubts regarding their safety and well-being. Organizations, besides, managing the risk, must reassure their employees that their concerns and fears have been understood, and appropriate measures have been put into place.

Know more: 6 Tips For Productively Working From Home During Lockdown

Wrapping up

Returning to work after lockdown is no less of a gamble given the uncertainty of the pandemic trajectory. However, businesses have to sustain and work must go on, but of course, keeping safety measures in mind. The traditional ways of working will have to be replaced by new work styles that are flexible, sustainable, and convenient for all. So, before you step out of your house and into your office, make sure you are prepared to face a new work environment.

Lockdown doesn’t mean we should stay idle. We should utilize this opportunity to stay ahead in our career. Utilise upGrad’s limited-time free courses during this lockdown. Hone yourself and rise to the challenge.

What does the future of remote work look like?

The dramatic change brought about by the health crisis in the functioning of offices worldwide have led to some interesting realizations. The new WFH trend, while may have been initially appreciated by employees, has developed a deeper gratitude among workers for the traditional office setting, which allowed for increased interpersonal interaction and work-life boundaries. However, it is too early to say if it will entirely take over the conventional job market. For most companies, hybrid mode is the way forward in the upcoming days, with an aim to make the best out of both the worlds.

How has the pandemic positively influenced work culture?

The two long years of struggling with the deadly pandemic, whilst trying to maintain normalcy around work, has brought about a number of trends that have the potential to change the scenario of corporate culture forever. The crisis has promoted a new awareness surrounding employee well-being, prioritizing their financial and emotional health. The benefits of increased freedom and flexibility to workers have been blatantly noticeable in terms of greater work satisfaction and improved productivity. Collaborating with employees remotely has also made companies more tech-savvy, resulting in efficient management of tasks. The future of work looks highly employee-centric with an increased expertise of dealing with crises at the managerial level, accompanied by a collective open-mindedness.

How to deal with the Back-to-Office stress?

After going through a complete makeover in terms of your daily routine and working habits over the past couple of years, it is naturally exhausting to have to do it all again. The transition can be far from an easy one, often raising concerns associated with social anxiety, work-life balance, safety and many more. But what helps the most is knowing that you are not alone in this. Talking to your colleagues can be one of the most effective ways of getting through this together. Communicating with your employers and HR representatives, sharing your concerns, and inquiring politely about the soundness of the new policies made by the company to deal with the changes is also one sure-shot way of dealing with your worries head-on.

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