As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wind down, many companies are looking at a graduated return to work (GRTW) program that will slowly allow them to resume normal operations.  Understanding how to implement your company’s GRTW plan can help you to avoid any mistakes or pitfalls.  Here are some key points to consider when creating a customized GRTW plan.

Balancing Productivity and Company Culture

According to consulting firm PwC’s 2021 Remote Work Survey. remote work may continue to play a role in productivity even after the pandemic is over.  According to the survey, 55 percent of employees would prefer to work remotely for at least three days a week for the foreseeable future.  By contrast, 68 percent of employers indicated that they believed employees should be in the office three days a week or more to maintain the culture of the company.

Employers who responded to the PwC study overwhelming praised the improved productivity and performance of staff members working remotely in five key areas:

  • The onboarding of new hires
  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Reaching new customers and building relationships
  • Innovation in developing new products and services
  • Collaborating with colleagues on new and existing projects

For many companies, offering at least some degree of remote work capabilities to their staff members can make good sense.  By reintroducing some key employees into the workspace over time, companies can achieve the most practical and positive results from their GRTW process.

Embracing the New Normal

For some companies, remote work arrangements may continue as a new normal well after the pandemic has been brought under control.  According to a February 2021 article in Forbes, companies like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Square have already announced that they will allow a sizable percentage of their staff members to continue to work from home for the foreseeable future.   This trend could make it more difficult for companies to persuade employees happy with work-at-home arrangements to return to the nine-to-five routine.

Not All Sunshine and Roses

Productivity soared during the first months of the pandemic.  Unfortunately, some workers reported that they missed face-to-face contact.  Others disliked the constant round of online meetings and conferences.  Many reported higher levels of stress and anxiety.  These points should be kept in mind as you develop your GRTW plan.

Measuring the Emotional Impact

Increased stress and anxiety have become so common during the pandemic that a psychological disorder has been named after this phenomenon.  Post-COVID stress disorder affects a wide cross-section of workers across the globe.  Nurses, physicians and medical professionals are among the hardest hit by this disorder.   Any GRTW plans must include the availability of mental health counseling services for those employees who may need them now or in the future.

Remote Work and Staff Retention

Determining the attitudes of your employees to your GRTW plans is critical in managing staff morale and productivity for your business.  A survey conducted by Envoy found that 73 percent of workers had safety and health concerns regarding their return to work.  Your company can address these issues in a few specific ways:

  • Requiring the use of masks for staff members, guests and/or customers in your facilities
  • Performing health checks and temperature checks for all individuals entering your workspaces
  • Working with a company that specializes in deep cleaning and surface treatments to reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses
  • Instituting policies that encourage staff members to stay at home if they feel sick
  • Allowing remote work on a part-time or full-time basis for employees who request it

Each of these strategies can help you to keep your staff members happy and productive whether they continue to work from home or come back to your brick-and-mortar workspaces.

Finding the right solutions for your GRTW plan will help you and your business to survive as the economy continues to recover.  Making a clear plan that fosters productivity and includes provisions for employee care and flexibility will help you to succeed in implementing these plans for your company’s future.