3 Key Areas of Focus for Successful Reopen-Office Policies - Grace Hill
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3 Key Areas of Focus for Successful Reopen-Office Policies

Posted on May 24, 2022

Smiling woman working at front desk of an office.

As mask mandates and other restrictions are lifted across the U.S. and beyond, policy makers continue to acknowledge falling COVID-19-related cases and hospitalization rates. Therefore, return-to-office workplace policies are also being revisited, revised and introduced to employees. Never has this been more vital, as more employees today prefer – and are even demanding – work-from-home arrangements.

According to a recent Bloomberg Morning Consult poll, most workers would rather quit than return to the office. The poll showed that 55 percent of remote workers would consider leaving their job if asked back before they felt safe, up from 45 percent a week earlier.

Given the tight labor market, employees hold most of the leverage when it comes to choosing where and how they want to work. However, not all businesses can operate with a predominantly remote workforce. Therefore, HR teams must weigh caution, health, safety, flexibility and their employees’ comfort levels in their plans to return to the workplace.

And given the hiring challenges so many companies are facing today, employers need to get return-to-work plans right. You care about your workforce’s well-being and are determined to make sound decisions when creating, managing, and distributing effective policies to strengthen performance, improve compliance, and reduce risk liability.

Grace Hill’s PolicyPartner offers a solution for companies that need to shore up their knowledge and expertise gaps today and as they continue to adapt to 2022’s conditions. Companies that lack internal expertise to write and maintain policies and procedures, have limited access to industry-standard policies and/or who are unable to tailor policies to culture and company-specific processes can rely on Grace Hill.

With a deep bench of subject matter experts in the commercial real estate space, Grace Hill is a partner that can provide experienced and trusted knowledge. 

The following are top policy concerns for companies as they progress through 2022:

1. Prepare for unforeseen circumstances.

HR research and advisory firm McLean & Co.’s HR Trends Report for 2021 indicates that HR departments that created scenario plans more than a year ago were better positioned for effectiveness amid the turmoil of 2020. 

However, only 17 percent of companies were in that category and 28 percent had no plans to start scenario planning. Right now, it’s as good a time as any to start.

Many companies are taking the same approach as some intelligence agencies, using scenario planning to consider alternate futures for their organizations—and to create different plans to prepare for those potential outcomes.

Applying scenario planning for team building, decision-making and critical thinking, one experiential learning expert said it can be used to “tell a story and also put people into real-life situations” in which company decision-makers can work as a team to explore potential solutions.

The process applies various “what-if” scenarios to business contingencies so company leaders can make decisions based on the most likely scenario while staying flexible and able to adjust to changing conditions.

For example, it’s an approach that HR can use to explore how different total rewards packages could maximize value for employees and minimize employer costs or how certain office configurations can create more efficient workflows.

2. Maintain a “cleanliness is key” mindset.

Consistent, thorough, and diligent cleaning protocols have become the norm. Businesses today can benefit from announcing general cleaning protocols and then following them discreetly when an exposure happens.

Technology can also assist. For example, tools can help make this overall more time-consuming process more efficient, helping companies avoid tedious manual tasks such as assigning staff to walk the office, recording which desks or meeting rooms are occupied.

What’s most important – when a workspace is contaminated – is to methodically track the steps of the infected person and clean any shared surfaces that they touched with effective cleaning solutions.

Additionally, mobile apps can let users know when desks or meeting rooms they intend to use have been cleaned and sanitized.

3. Evaluate workspace configuration.

Gone are yesterday’s office arrangement norms. Reconfigurations must prioritize safety, collaboration and privacy. The “corner office” and its “prestige” has gone by the wayside. Flexibility, deliberate activity and open spaces are considered more effective.

There are tools that allow facilities managers to efficiently draw out where employees from different departments will sit to keep them safe and healthy. Companies must also be nimble enough to change as they continue to increase employee capacity and need to quickly reconfigure who sits where and what meeting rooms are available.

Office planners, working with their human resources departments, need to be able to create multiple spacing scenarios they can easily call up when guidelines change. Space-planning software can also help determine proper social distancing between workspaces as companies plan new layouts.

Technology is available to help employees search for available desks or office rooms. Density heat-mapping can alert facility managers, HR leaders and workers to the number of employees in given spaces based on wi-fi and occupancy-sensing devices.

At the same time, companies benefit by seeking employee input, which increases their chances of success. When a staff is truly engaged in the process, they are more likely to stay.

Paul Bergeron
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