Four factors to focus on to forge a successful office comeback: associations now
As associations prepare to welcome employees back to the workplace, there are key concepts to focus on. The president of the National Security Council said communication, physical security, preparedness for change and discussions about immunization are critical to success.
While many associations plan to bring staff back to the office by the fall, it’s important to do so in a way that makes employees feel comfortable and safe. Lorraine Martin, President and CEO of the National Safety Council (NSC), outlined some key areas organizations need to focus on.
Communicate in advance. Martin recommends surveying staff to “really get a feel for what’s good for your culture, what’s good for your team before you even start announcing dates and plans to bring people back into the building.” You need a few months to do this well. Then make sure that when you put protocols in place, you make them very clear and concise and that you share them so that people can get them easily. “
The main misstep Martin saw is that organizations move too fast. âI heard that some organizations had just released a memo saying, ‘Everybody’s back on Monday,’â Martin said. âIt’s so disruptive and alarming because people haven’t thought about it. This preparation time is really, really important.
Prioritize physical security. Before bringing employees back, make sure the office is secure. âThis includes making sure your office space is set up appropriately, making sure your ventilation system has been upgraded with the correct filters, and verifying that you are testing your water system,â said said Martin. âYou absolutely must make sure, before returning to your workplace, that you have really prepared it for the return of employees. “
The associations that own their building have the autonomy to make changes. If you are renting, Martin has a few suggestions. “The first thing to do is to go to your landlord and say, ‘These are what are recommended by the [Centers for Disease Control &Prevention] and [Occupational Safety and Health Administration]; please take care of it, âshe said. If there is resistance, “be as loud and loud as you can about it.”
NSC has made its voice heard, but Martin said the group still had to pay for water testing at one of its locations where an owner refused to do so. âAsk yourself: if the owner isn’t doing what has been recommended for a safe work environment, can you do it yourself? ” she said. âYou may be able to improve ventilation capabilities with ground units. It is important to say it: you are responsible for your employees. Even if you don’t own the space, you need to make sure that it safely meets your expectations.
NSC’s SAFER website brings together specific guidance from federal agencies on building safety issues, as well as mask mandates, cleaning practices, and space setup for social distancing.
Be prepared to change. The Delta variant of COVID-19 has made the news because it is highly transmissible. Delta’s surge has caused some places to reinstate mask mandates and more rule changes could occur.
âEven if you bring people back to your physical location, always watch what’s going on because things are changing right now, right under our feet,â Martin said. âMake sure the staff know it could be a fluid situation. “
Also determine what your organization considers important enough to trigger the change in your policies. “You shouldn’t just have a plan of, if we’re going to pull out, what would it look like and how would we do it?” Martin said. âYou also need to know what you’re going to watch: the CDC, your local health data, the safety experts in your community. Know what the triggers would be for you to say, âYou guys know, we need to take a step back. “
Martin recommends sharing these triggers with staff. âEmployees just want to know why and when something might happen, so they can prepare for it and understand how the organization is primarily concerned with their safety and health,â she said.
Talk about vaccination. Although many do not need vaccinations, organizations can help encourage staff to get vaccinated. âThis is a passionate question on both sides, and for employers it’s important to stay focused on the data, the facts, and use some of these resources we have to talk about vaccinations,â Martin said. She also noted that it is helpful to schedule paid time off to get vaccinated and recover from side effects.
For organizations requiring vaccination to return to the office, be sure to follow federal rules. âConsult your legal advisor,â she said. âNot only make sure you do it right in what you ask for, but [also in] how you store data.
What is your office doing to prepare you to return to work? Share in the comments.