March 9, 2021
Returning to the Workplace: 5 Things to Consider

As we approach the one-year mark since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across the country have a lot to consider. 

Will they transition employees back to the office? Will they stay remote? Will they take a hybrid approach?

While we look to the future, we know the workplace will certainly look different. It is clear, however, that remote work works! We have gotten creative and learned how to work together while apart. Now, many organizations seem to be heading toward a hybrid workspace.

But what does that look like? What is best for your company? It’s not an easy decision, so let’s explore the options and facts below.

5 Factors to Consider Before Returning to the Office

As you carefully contemplate how, when, and where your team will work in the post-COVID world, it’s important to consider:

  • Your employees: Are they ready?
  • Establishing a schedule
  • How to support your virtual team
  • How to support your onsite team
  • The purpose of your office

Are Your Employees Ready?

The PwC survey found that while 75% of employers expect at least half of their office workforce to return to the office by July, employees expect the transition to be slower.

Check-in with your team. Find out who is comfortable with returning to the office and when. Some employees will have been more productive working remotely during the pandemic, while others will prefer to return to the office at least some of the time to increase their productivity.

Establish a Schedule

When it comes to scheduling hybrid workplaces, beware that employees may not see eye-to-eye with you on the ideal remote work schedule. Over half of the employees surveyed said they’d like to be remote at least three days a week.

Again, be very clear about which employees need to be onsite and when. What do they need to do in the office? The accounts payable department may need to print checks, while an account manager may need to meet clients. 

Review which roles have performed well remotely and which did not to decide which departments or types of employees should return to the office. For some, it may make sense to allow them to continue in their WFH setups.

Developing a hybrid schedule will allow you to stagger the number of people in the office to allow for plenty of space and ensure everyone’s safety.

How to Support Your Virtual Team

According to a recent survey by PwC, remote work has proven to be successful for both employees and employers. Just check out their stats: 

  • 83% percent of employers said the shift to remote work has been successful.
  • 52% of employers and 34% of employees said their productivity improved over the prolonged work-from-home (WFH) period.

While the past year has given us clear evidence that telecommuting works, some executives still have their concerns about full remote work; few think their company culture will survive an all-remote working structure. 

Support, adaptability, and flexibility have been the keys to managing a successful remote workforce. The employees who reported higher productivity were much more likely to say their companies have been better at things like collaborating on new projects and serving customers. 

So, how can your company be proactive and plan for employee needs? The most effective ways to boost WFH productivity are:

  • Allowing the necessary flexibility to manage family responsibilities.
  • Adopting technologies that support remote work.
  • Creating clear rules and a secure structure around WFH.

PwC notes that those who have not focused on these areas are playing catch-up. 

How to Support Your Onsite Team

Whether you are planning to transition employees back to the office full-time or use a hybrid model, put safety first. Some team members may have conditions that increase their risk of COVID-19, while others have caregiving responsibilities for children or elderly family members. Leadership should be sensitive to these needs and concerns. 

Be understanding of the fact that some employees may need some time to adjust mentally to a new workspace and schedule. Set clear expectations with employees and let them know what the company is doing to protect their health. This includes: 

  • Complying with federal, state, and local orders (plan for gradual, long-term changes).
  • Implementing deep cleaning and sanitization practices.
  • Updating the workplace layout so workstations are farther apart.
  • Adjusting employee schedules to reduce the number of people in the office at one time.
  • Setting health and safety guidelines for the workplace.
  • Establishing rules for those returning to work after a COVID-19 infection.

Ensure that employees have resources and opportunities to voice their challenges and concerns. A significant part of this will be maintaining genuine, two-way communication between leadership and staff members. Management should also work with human resources teams to create an effective communication strategy and prepare for a potential increase in ethics and compliance complaints, according to PwC.

Two tools you can put in place to make the process smoother are: 

  • Scheduling tools to help manage employees’ schedules (especially in a hybrid scenario).
  • Communication tools and systems for both onsite and remote team members.

Determine the Purpose of Your Office

If you still believe in the value of a physical office, you’re not alone. Most executives believe people should be in the office at least three days a week—after the pandemic, of course. They feel that the most important reasons for being in the office are:

  1. Boosting employee productivity.
  2. Providing spaces to meet with clients.
  3. Aiding in employee collaboration.
  4. Enabling the company culture.

Employees, on the other hand, feel that being in the office is important for:

  1. Collaborating.
  2. Accessing equipment or documents securely.
  3. Meeting with clients or colleagues.
  4. Training and career development.

Be sure to define the purpose of your office. This means:

  • Determining who needs to be in the office and when.
  • Communicating what they can expect to accomplish there.
  • Evaluating what happens in the office spaces.
  • Identifying the most important reasons people would come in.
  • Confirming the current space is conducive to be used primarily as a meeting place.

Creating a Safe Workplace Following COVID-19

There is much to consider when returning to the office at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic and later. If you need guidance in safely bringing your employees back to the workplace, BlueLion can help you protect both your team and your business. Contact us today to learn more at 603-818-4131 or

Will your company transition employees back to the office, use a hybrid model, or remain completely remote until the COVID-19 crisis ends? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.