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[COVID-19] What will the return to the office look like?


As we move towards a progressive and selective sense of normality, countries across Europe are gradually starting to go back to work.

Whilst the advice and recommendations of governments is to favour remote working, some businesses will be looking to bring back at least some of their staff to the office. But how best to approach it? What are the right reflexes and attitudes to adopt? Whilst each company will have a specific plan of action, and will do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of its employees, there are rules to be respected and kept in mind.  

Here we share our top five tips for returning to the office in the best possible way:

Embrace uncertainty in order to better understand the future

Returning to work will naturally be a source of uncertainty for many people. What are the new habits that we should be adopting given the context? How do we change the reflexes that we have acquired during lockdown? These are certainly all questions that will prompt companies to develop new ways of working, even if they are only temporary. Perhaps how employees arrive into a building will be adapted, as well as how they move around the office and where teams are organised. The return to the office will prove to be a challenge and fear of the unknown is a legitimate concern. However, we must accept uncertainty, whether individually or collectively, in order to best prepare ourselves for the future. Opportunities will also emerge as we work through new experiences and as such gain new skills and ways of approaching challenges. Many employees, for example, have learnt to master remote working tools and managed to carry out their job in a very different context. 

Respecting health rules

As indicated by the WHO (World Health Organisation), preventive measures will have to be put in place in the workplace. Employees will be made responsible for health and safety rules within the company and will be expected to be cooperate accordingly. It is everyone's responsibility to respect this advice, for example wearing a mask and gloves or maintaining physical distance from others. We must also be respectful and thoughtful, not taking more than the allocated number of masks for example and maintaining social dialogue even if the physical dialogue is for the short term, broken.

Be practical

Going back to the office doesn't mean going back to normal. The way we worked at the start of the year will not be the same; physical meetings will be prohibited for the coming weeks, as will shared meals. Social distancing measures should therefore be extended as long as necessary. Moreover, it is important to not do away with the reflexes that we have built up over the last few weeks.

Maintaining dialogue with one another

As the very essence of a workplace is a way of creating social and professional bonds, this must still be championed. The return to social contact with others will be a driving force in encouraging people back to the office. Dialogue was of course never cut off during the long weeks of lockdown, but it was different, as we saw our colleagues through a computer or phone screen.  

Today is a chance to adapt to tomorrow’s world

How to find the balance between the before and after? This is a question which awaits all of us as we go back to work. Tomorrow's world will be shaped by new tools, new experiences and the notion of collaboration will take on more meaning than ever. New technology and the many different types of digital tools will become more of a support to us than ever before. Videoconferencing, for example is likely to become the norm. The question remains though, how much of our working lives will become digital? Will the health crisis act as an accelerator for technological advances? Despite the many doubts surrounding the future, for many of us a return to ‘normality’ is what we crave and our working lives are one central part of that.