Defining the principles of our “return to work” plan

How To Bring People Back To The Office Following A Lockdown?

A few weeks ago, the whole world came to a halt. Everyone suddenly had to change their ways and adapt, and we were no exception.

We took action quickly, and before we knew it, all of our operations were 100% remote. But this change was always going to be temporary. And yet, in a way, it was permanent.

When we closed the offices, we knew that someday we would come back. But we would return to a new reality.

Key points:

  • How did we develop our “return to work” plan following the pandemic?
  • What procedures did we need to introduce?
  • What did the change process look like?

No time to lose

Our company has always worked remotely, so it was not so difficult to switch at first. But as with any business, some of our employees prefer to come to the office because it allows them to work faster and more efficiently.

People are our main value – so when we noticed that work from home is starting to become a burden, we knew that we must act faster. Some Predicans don’t have the right conditions to work, others have small children, some might just miss the office chatter.

Instagram post of the empty office

A throwback to our empty office in a not-too-distant past

And so, we began to prepare for the reopening. We started planning in April. With everything that happened, we had to create new rules, regulations, and procedures for using the offices. All of this was necessary to make sure that our employees can come back and feel safe.

From the beginning, we knew that the offices would not work on the same principles as before. Good organization of work, clear division of tasks and guidelines were essential for our preparations.

Defining the principles of our “return to work” plan

We started by looking at government tips and expert medical advice. In line with these recommendations, as well as all government guidelines, we began to develop and implement new procedures.

The main question we asked ourselves was: how can we ensure the safety of employees who decide to return to the premises?

The workplaces would be open only for those willing to come back and we would not force anyone to come in if they preferred to work elsewhere. So, we focused on encouraging everyone to take advantage of the opportunity and making them feel safe in the office, but also confident that they made the right choice, whatever it was.

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A change of office scenery

We started by reducing the number of workspaces so that there was a suitable distance between employees, i.e. 1.5 m. To begin with, we placed red markings on them to indicate that they are out of use. As a consequence, we ended up with a lot of desks, which at the moment are not needed on the premises.

Part of "return to work" plan: Desks with markings for keeping safe distance

Desk markings help Predicans keep a safe distance from each other

We decided to give them to Predicans working from home so that they could work more comfortably. Those willing to pick up desks and chairs were asked to sign up. In addition, they can take computer equipment home. Now they can create their own comfortable home office.

Part of "return to work" plan: A disinfection station at the office entrance

A disinfection station at the entrance helps everyone maintain their hygiene after the morning commute

Additionally, social rooms, conference rooms, and the entire premises have been equipped with necessary protection measures, such as masks, gloves, and antibacterial gels.

Part of our "return to work" plan: A disinfection station in one of the offices

Every office has several disinfection stations and notices reminding Predicans how to stay safe

An important part of our “return to work” plan were attendance lists. By having people signing up in advance we know how many will come to the office each day and can make sure that the amount of employees on-site doesn’t exceed the guidelines. It also helps to protect those present.

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New office procedures

Upon return to the offices, we provide Predicans with advisory signs or reminders on how to act. For example, we add reminders about the maximum number of people permitted in the kitchen or the chill room. We do not want to prohibit anyone from using these spaces, but rather encourage them to take care of themselves and others, and follow the rules that were introduced for the good of all.

A part of our "return to work" plan - a reminder sign on the entrance door

It’s never too soon to start talking about safety! A sign on the office entrance

There is also plenty of on-site communication and support from service teams, informing everyone in person about how the “new standard” should work. Our goal is to communicate changes in the spirit of employee wellbeing and reducing anxiety.

Maintaining hygiene standards

By now, we all know about hand-washing. But what is the best way to deep clean and sanitize the premises? There are excellent guidelines and we plan to increase both the frequency and intensity of cleaning services on our premises.

For example, we will perform regular cleaning during the day, such as wiping tables, door handles, common places, and light switches. Then, every evening, the offices will be thoroughly sanitized and cleaned by the cleaning crews.

Thanks to the Tedee lock and application, we have not used entrance cards for a long time. Instead, we open the door using the application, and so we do not have to touch the handle. Not only is it convenient, but also a significant contribution to maintaining good hygiene. Keeping both the office and the Predicans safe!

Keeping our values at heart

The most important part of the entire process was communication. It was key to convey to everyone what to expect and what the new rules will be for our spaces. There was no pressure on anyone to come back to the office if they do not feel safe or prefer working from home.

We still recommend remote work, and that recruitment or client meetings are held online via Teams. But through thoughtful planning and constant communication, now we can all safely re-enter our workplaces and see our colleagues again.

A common area in one of our offices

One of our common areas – hopefully, it will be full of life again soon!

At the foundation of our values is “Act with care” which means being considerate of others and looking out for each other. This attitude guided us as we worked on our plan to be able to return to the office.

We wanted to make sure that all Predicans can work in a way that is most effective for them, in the safest way possible. Looking at our workplace today, and seeing some people already happy to be back, I can say we succeeded.

Key takeaways:
  1. It took us over a month to devise our “return to work” plan. The more offices you have and the larger they are, the sooner you should start to make sure you cover everything.
  2. Changes encompass pretty much every aspect of office life – from spaces between desks, through disinfection stations, to how many people can be in any given room. Some rooms may need to be sealed off completely to protect everyone on the premises.
  3. Communication is crucial. Change can introduce anxiety and uncertainty. It’s important to remember that not everyone may want to come back right away, and even those who do may still feel unsure. Make everyone feel heard and safe.
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