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Every day, we are seeing signs of hope. More and more people are getting vaccinated, businesses are reopening their doors, people are returning to work. Gradually, we’re working toward a time when we can move past the era of COVID-19 and its stranglehold on our lives. But will life ever truly be the same? Will workplaces operate as they once did?

All signs point to NO.

Even though we might return to the same buildings where we worked pre-pandemic and focus on the same duties with the same people, things may look and feel different. Procedures and protocols might change, the layout of the workspace might be tweaked (desks further apart, conference rooms rearranged), and the general feel of the office might seem different.

Beyond these changes, it is clear that workers are ready to embrace a new normal. Many have discovered that they enjoy working from home (or, at least, want to have the option to work from home on occasion). Others have found that they prefer virtual meetings as opposed to taking long, cross-country trips to meet with clients or co-workers in other states.  Some, however, are eager to return to the way things were and are looking forward to working alongside others.

With so many differing opinions and perspectives, what’s a workplace to do?

Try following these 6 tips to ease your workers back into a “new normal.”

1. Embrace a Hybrid Work Model

This past year has proven that work can be accomplished at home, as well as in the office. It can be achieved at 5 a.m. …or 9 p.m. So, why not continue to offer flexibility and allow employees to work at home if they’d like, or come into the office if they’d like? If you emphasize results rather than a rigid schedule, you’re only helping those who prefer working at home, prefer a flexible schedule (maybe they have to bring their kids to school or daycare, or maybe they simply want to exercise in the middle of the day), or those who want to avoid a long, stressful commute.

2. Implement a Rotational Work Model

To help people feel safe in the office in these early reentry days, it’s a good idea to keep up some kind of social distancing. To do that, you might put your team members on a rotational schedule, where certain people can work in the office on certain days of the week. That helps keep everyone distanced, while slowing edging back into the workplace.

3. Take a Phased Approach

You don’t have to do everything at once! Take your time with reentry and plan to bring everyone back in phases. Maybe that means introducing a rotational model at first (see point #2,) or encouraging work from home for part of the week, or easing up on mask restrictions once your team is vaccinated. Do what is right for your office and DON’T FORGET to include your employees in your planning. Gather their thoughts and opinions; make sure they feel safe and included.

4. Restructure Your Offices

To help protect your workers and give them a little more peace of mind, it’s a good idea to restructure your offices somewhat. If you can, try spacing workstations so they are six feet apart and well-ventilated. You may also want to invest in a quality air purification system for the office. Beyond that, be mindful of conference rooms, break areas, and other gathering spaces. You may want to encourage virtual conferencing in the short-term, to help discourage clusters of people.

5. Create a Sanitary Workplace

Aside from rearranging your workspace and making big, sweeping changes, it’s a good idea to continue focusing on sanitation. Provide antibacterial hand sanitizer stations across the office and encourage employees to clean desks and chairs with wipes before taking a seat. Make sure everyone has access to sanitation supplies and normalize caution!

6. Encourage Good Hygiene and Self Care

Post handwashing signs in the bathrooms, provide each employee with a supply of hand sanitizer and wipes, and discourage handshakes and touching. It’s also a good idea on taking a FIRM stance against employees coming into the office if they’re feeling under the weather. Let them know that they have your full support if they would rather stay home.

As we tiptoe back into the workplace, these first few months will inevitably be challenging. Take your time, develop a plan, and be sure to involve everyone in the strategy phase. Convey to your team members that you are on their side and want to do everything in your power to keep them safe, happy, and productive. Going forward, we’ll all have to be flexible and willing to learn or adapt. We’re all in this together.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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