After almost an entire year of working from home, the scene has finally shifted back to the office. However, amidst several mixed reactions from different stakeholders, the return-to-office situation has set off a new line of challenges not only in India but all over the world, giving rise to several new questions and concerns.
What Return-to-Office Has Meant So Far for Those in an Office Setup
All departments across the organizations are facing their unique set of issues. While the Management teams are devising ways to end the work-from-home phase, the HR department is endeavoring to send the right message that is sensitive to employees’ safety concerns while achieving the Management’s objective of return-to-work solutions at the same time.
Meanwhile, the Admin & Facilities teams are striving to ensure that all hygiene and safety measures are in place to promote the safety and efficiency of the employees at the workplace.
Interestingly, this has also been a time of great activity for the employees. Multiple surveys have shown that over 70% of them are actively trying to either get a new job, negotiate extended work-from-home or get 50% to 100% hikes in their current package.
5 Practical Return-to-Office Solutions for Facility Managers
Despite all the mayhem surrounding return-to-work solutions, facility managers need to focus their energies on the key factors related to their area of work. As those responsible for ensuring a safe physical workplace, they need to address some inherent issues presented by the back-to-office transition.
Here are the solutions to 5 common concerns that you will face as a facility manager while the employees return to physical workspaces.
Do we still need to ensure that everyone wears their masks at work?
This is a question that requires serious consideration. Just like India had previously announced victory over the pandemic only to fall flat in the second wave, those in the U.S. have also abandoned their masks, leading to a rise in the number of COVID-positive cases. It is almost a given fact that masks are here to stay, maybe until the WHO declares the pandemic to be completely under control all over the world. As they say, better safe than sorry, it is advisable to make masks freely available on campus and educate the employees about the need to wear them for their protection and that of their family and colleagues who will be interacting with them daily.
Should we still follow the social distancing recommendations at work?
It is indeed unwise to disregard the social (physical) distancing recommendations until all traces of the pandemic has vanished from the planet. Unfortunately, there seems to be an assumption that while having a tea/coffee or while having lunch with a colleague, the pandemic takes a break and no physical distancing or avoidance of touchpoints is necessary. Nothing can be further away from the truth! No matter what, maintaining 6 feet distance and avoiding any exchange of vessels or items of common usage is both mandatory and crucial.
How can we effectively manage the workspace capacity?
While some companies are thinking of leaving alternate seats empty by calling their employees on alternate days, others are willing to invest in expanding their existing space to seat the same number of employees as before. Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the thumb rule is that if two people are sitting too close to each other, rearranging the seating plan or rescheduling their office timings is absolutely necessary.
Working in different shifts is not new to most industries. Thus, if the current office timings are shuffled between a morning and an evening shift, many of these seating concerns can be quickly resolved. Another alternative would be to call people on alternate days, but then the impact of the same on the efficiency of the employees and the quality of client deliverables will have to be assessed. In the current uncertain environment, it is definitely not advisable to do anything that will result in the loss of precious work hours. You should also avoid investing in new infrastructure just to create more space to accommodate any distancing norms.
How do we manage all the extra cleaning and sanitization?
Studies done all over the world, as well as guidelines issued by various health organizations in different countries, have affirmed that as long as individuals maintain hand hygiene, keep wearing masks and minimize the touchpoints as far as possible, there is no need to perform multiple rounds of workspace sanitization. Each desk can get a bottle of sanitizer, with a common point where they can go and refill it when their bottle is empty. This alone should suffice along with the regular office cleaning that is already being done. Consider this: hospitals, shops, banks, and many other centers have remained open all through the pandemic without going overboard on cleaning and sanitization, and yet it has been proven that they are not super-spreaders of the coronavirus; the same would apply to offices too.
How can we handle contact tracing?
Every time there is a positive case, most people tend to panic, and rightfully so, thinking of who else they might have interacted with and who could be possibly infected. Unfortunately, no amount of contact tracing in an office environment can help resolve this concern. A person could have contracted it outside the office and could be an asymptomatic spreader for days before any symptoms appear.
If a person has never let anyone come near them without a mask, and they themselves were never without a mask when interacting with someone else, by and large, things should be fine.
Even though some companies are claiming that their innovative techniques will help people come back to work safely, such claims are highly doubtful. Elevated body screenings, opt-in contact tracing, gadgets to detect and hinder close contact or to identify those without masks are some ideas and techniques that are being proposed to ensure a safer workspace. Nevertheless, up to this point, contactless biometrics seems to be the only AI-based solution with some actual perceptible benefit as it will enable employees to avoid a major touchpoint at work.
As facility managers all across the nation gear up to embrace the new normal with the help of practical return-to-work solutions, our team at QuickFMS is here to help you make better decisions with our advanced facilities management software that allows you to manage your organization’s physical space with ease. With multiple modules to manage all aspects of your business, our dedicated remote resources will ensure greater employee productivity and higher returns on all your investments. For more details, schedule a free, personalized demo with us today!
Amit Prasad is the founder and managing director of SatNav Technologies and has business interests in a wide range of IT products. SatNav Technologies is an IT products company focusing on cloud based map data products and a pioneer in GPS, FMS & LBS Technologies. The product suite includes SatTracx in-the-field location based solutions and A-mantra in-the-office facilities management solutions. QuickFMS from a-mantra is a cloud based facility management system which enhances organization’s efficiency.