[Blog] Returning Your Staff to Work? Common Mistakes to Avoid

Jul 21st, 2021
Share on:

New workspaces need careful navigation. Photographer: Mimi Thian | Source: Unsplash

Long story short? Flexibility is here to stay. Keep that in mind when returning to work...


It’s been a wild ride, with companies forced to quickly adapt and put in place new work protocols and arrangements to keep their operations running while ensuring staff and customer safety. Now businesses are facing an entirely new set of challenges as they contemplate their employees' return to work.

Companies are considering a range of options to determine the most responsible way to recall employees to work, mulling over questions such as:

• When should we reopen?
• Should all employees come back at once, or should it be a recall in stages?
• If we go for a staggered recall, who should be called back first?
• What if there is resistance from furloughed employees who don’t want to return when recalled?
• Are safety and social distancing protocols in place and are they adequate?

The answers to these questions will, of course, vary depending on your business type, location, number of workers, work available, and a host of other factors. What’s not in question is the better prepared you are to avoid the most common mistakes when returning to work, the happier, healthier, and more productive your employees will be.

Keep an eye out for the following pitfalls:


The Number One Mistake? Doing Nothing!

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -Theodore Roosevelt

This reflection perhaps best encapsulates how businesses should approach the question when employees are poised to return to work.

It can be very tempting to see it simply as a return to normalcy by sticking with your current environment while recalling workers to continue where they left off before the pandemic. That approach would be wrong and unrealistic in light of pandemic-driven changes. Office spaces need to be monitored to enforce health regulations—health screening, face masks and PPE, social distancing, improved air quality, as well as enhanced and regular cleaning. Plus, a recent Accenture report noted that regardless of where you are located, ensuring your workforce is healthy and productive will yield bottom-line benefits. The report found that using productivity anywhere hybrid workforce models are embraced by 63% of high-revenue growth companies.

Be Proactive

Important to note then that since March 2020, employees have filed 2,879 lawsuits against employers over alleged labor violations related to coronavirus. You can mitigate these risks by implementing environmental infection control strategies to minimize touchpoints through contactless access control, implementing employee self-service applications for healthcare declarations, temperature checks, contact tracing, and desk booking.

If you don't reduce costs, your business will become a less competitive entity and miss the opportunity for growth. A study by KPMG found that 70% of C-level executives are honing in on space expenses in their operating budgets. They realize there are obvious ways to save money through more efficient use of office space which can be translated into broader business benefits. In fact, in mid-2019 Deloitte reported that 30% of multinational firms had already implemented hot desking—a flexible system that involves multiple workers using a single workstation during different time periods to save on space and reduce downtime—and another 45% were planning to transition in 2020.

As the need for a safe return to the workplace is fast becoming necessary, companies must be adequately prepared to meet this challenge effectively. Most experts agree that a hybrid WFH/office model will be the new norm for companies moving forward. The fact remains that hybrid work environments can have a hugely positive impact on your business: allowing employees greater flexibility in performing their work and permitting the company to trim costs without losing productivity.

The Harvard Business Review researched companies that continued to thrive during recessions. They found that a progressive enterprise strategy has proven successful in terms of economic growth and innovation. Unlike these nimble, forward-thinking, and proactive entities, those companies that didn't innovate and invest were disrupted by new technologies and saw their businesses undone.

Businesses that can take advantage of these changes will have a huge leg up on their competition. Doing nothing, however, could leave you lagging behind, while confronted with sudden logistical challenges. Disregarding these changes is a sure way of courting trouble down the line.

Missing Out on Opportunities for Improvement

unsplash-image_2000_bc4efeb29b099c59ddbfcc3f39eed0e7d_2000 copy.png

The world is changing rapidly. It pays to change along with it. Photographer: Tom Chen | Source: Unsplash

Moments like the one we are currently living through present an opportunity to implement long-lasting changes to help you better adapt to the present and prepare for the future. In the workplace of the future, technology will drive productivity and offer a wide variety of work-life integration options. To remain ahead of the curve, companies need to integrate new technology into their business processes to ensure the safety and well-being of employees and to simplify the complexities of hybrid working arrangements.

Returning to work provides a chance to upgrade your technology, implement new work policies, improve digitalization, and importantly, enable more streamlined communication between employees. Indeed, improved communication in the form of software packages allied to smart management will always benefit your company in the long term, and now is the ideal time to lay a strong foundation to rely on going forward. That means focusing on ways to bring your people together, regardless of where they may be operating from. Tapping the right partner and leveraging the technology they offer will enable quick worker alerts and updates in addition to facilitating video conferencing and similar virtual meeting tech that’s easily implementable.

Similarly, software that can enhance automation—handling duties such as scheduling desks and monitoring traffic flow to comply with local health edicts—can reduce your employees’ workload and allow them to focus on other tasks. Now is the time to embrace such changes and missing the boat could have negative consequences for your company for some time to come.

Forcing All Employees to Go Back to the Office

One of the big lessons businesses gleaned from the pandemic is that a great deal of work can be produced by workers at home. Doing so provides them with added flexibility in how they accomplished their tasks—allowing them to better balance work and home life while sparing them the time and expense of a commute.

Companies can benefit as well, largely by saving space costs and utilities. Formal surveys have borne out those numbers. According to a recent Smarten Spaces poll, 47% of employees want jobs with flexible working conditions and 73% of employees want flexible remote work options to stay. The improved emotional health that comes with a work-from-home arrangement tailored to each employee’s need is enough to gain and retain skilled workers for an extended amount of time.

That balance can be disrupted, though, by a rush to return all employees to the office. Even worse, doing so may compromise existing safety protocols put in place for employee health. Although not every job can be performed in a home environment, a prudent organization will seek a hybrid workspace divided between in-office time and working from home. The right workplace experience technology can easily facilitate such a transition when returning to work. To do otherwise is to risk losing skilled employees—especially millennials and younger workers—and possibly violate established safety regulations and give rise to costly lawsuits as well.

Sticking to the Traditional One-Size-Fits-All-Mentality

unsplash-34mage_2000_ead1be1a225ce9608f5b803049b8f861_2000.jpeg
Employees want improved flexibility in their workday. Photographer: Helena Lopes | Source: Unsplash

At the heart of employees’ need for increased flexibility is the understanding that every worker is different, and what helps ‘Matt’ be effective may be actively disruptive to ‘Deepa.’ Traditionally, those concerns were overlooked owing to the needs of a communal workplace and the nature of the 8-hour workday. COVID-19 has effectively put that approach to bed, as we all pivoted to balance immediate health and safety needs with workplace duties that were shifting fast. When returning to work, forcing your staff to follow a single routine (after their improvements in efficiency and mental health) is a sure way to create all manner of unnecessary problems.

In the rush to get employees back to the office, some companies are unfortunately missing the lessons proffered by the pandemic and are retreating to old mindsets, insistent that a one-size-fits-all approach will suffice.

Remote work observations, however, dispel this notion, emphatically!

• Some people functioned effectively at home, others proved less productive and more distracted.
• Some units coordinated better and were more responsive to each other working virtually, while other teams could not achieve this harmony.
• Some craved the social interaction of the office, while others thrived on being alone to get work done without interruptions.
• Some huddles became more effective, focused, and engaged in a virtual setting, while other virtual meetings became less engaging and focused.

These distinctive and contrasting scenarios make it abundantly clear that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t make sense when employees and their workplace needs are so different. Every company is unique, and the flexibility of your staff depends both on your specific needs and theirs. Crafting a new work routine that allows them to retain that flexibility can go a long way towards retaining skilled employees and ensuring they are able to perform at their best. The appropriate software package can make that process easy: empowering you to ditch the one-size-fits-all mentality for good.

Returning to Work? Choose Dynamic Hybrid Workspaces by Smarten Spaces!

Hybrid workplaces or the hub-and-spoke office style as some call it, are here to stay. And as the world transitions once again and people begin returning to work, it makes good business sense to invest and innovate in establishing your work environment the right way, the smart way. This is where Smarten Spaces can help. We offer a the latest workplace technology that will help you automate tasks with AI-based recommendations and scheduling and optimize your space in sync with the unique hybrid needs of your workforce.

Our digital workplace technology includes a range of features that enables a simple and direct approach to any logistical challenge. Worker management features allow employees to organize meetings and reserve conference space and desks, as well as finding the best combination of office hours and work-from-home features. Smarten Spaces’ technology projects the total demand for office real estate, analyses the consumption of space and automates the entire request-for-space process.

Your company itself benefits from automated functions, allowing schedules to be maintained with no clashes and ensuring that all pertinent health and safety requirements are adequately met. As you prepare to welcome back your staff from their hiatus, contact us today to schedule an interactive demo in our Living Lab today.

Read More