A pressing question for many employers in 2021 will be whether to continue with remote work or to initiate a return to the workplace strategy. Post the pandemic, remote work has become a norm and an accepted way of work for a majority of global and local employers, adding to the complexity of returning to the office safely.
Calling employees back to the office carries with itself several liabilities around the safety of the workforce and building an experience that factors in both workforce and workplace readiness.
Returning to the workplace safely requires strategies for commuting, safe-distancing in the office, cleaning processes, personal protective equipment inventory management, guidelines for shared area and meeting room usage and much more.
According to The Work Survey by ServiceNow (conducted by Wakefield Research, September 2020), 89% of Singapore’s executives acknowledge that COVID-19 forced them to rethink how they worked, with 55% of local employees saying it’s an improvement. So, how are employers innovating as the dilemma around remote work vs return to the workplace persists? What factors need to be catered to as employers call employees back to the workplace? How critical is employee experience in enabling the transition back to the workplace? Let’s find out!
The year of return to office?
“It’s no longer about Remote vs. Return,” suggested The Work Survey - “it’s an entirely new way of working.” Reflecting on the months gone by, executives (95%) and employees (92%) in Singapore expressed real concerns about how remote work will impact the business moving forward. Over half of the employees say it’s essential for companies to provide for flexible working hours (55%), and guaranteed remote work (55%), otherwise they’ll walk. However, despite the perks of flexible working and no office commute, both employers and employees have their reservations surrounding continued remote working, with executives (59%) being worried about extended timelines for new releases/ innovations and employees (53%) being concerned about reduced collaboration between business units.
As crucial as employee safety and social distancing are under the current circumstances, prolonged working from home has triggered isolation, ergonomic concerns and a disconnect among employees which has nudged them to explore solutions to counter the downside of remote work.
One such solution that a majority have begun craving for is a safe return to the office.
While employers are keen to have employees back in offices, this needs to be supported with adequate safety protocols and practices for a safe and seamless return to the workplace. What is important to note here is that with individuals managing their work under different circumstances, it is critical to first assess the readiness of employees to return, only then can organizations plan a seamless and comprehensive strategy that is all encompassing.
Beyond employee readiness, regular health checks, tracking daily exposure, maintaining logs of employees working from office, innovating and upgrading to provide a contactless workplace experience to minimize risk of exposure, and having a contingency plan to contain any outbreaks at the workplace will need to be put in place, before employees are asked to return to the workplace.
A seamless employee experience for a safe return to work
The extended overlapping of work and life, accompanied by flexible working has made employee experience a key priority for organizations. As they prepare for a partial return to the workplace, the experience will have to be scaled and standardized to enable a smooth and safe transition back to the workplace.
Key aspects in building an improved employee experience include:
- Sourcing timely workforce data and insights to assess readiness to return to work
- Safety protocols to provide a COVID-safe workplace
- Monitoring and facilitating secure office commute and workplace interaction
- Feeding in the right tools that provide employees across geographical boundaries with locally compliant safe work environments
- Tracking workplace inventory digitally to minimize physical contact
- Building a contactless experience at the workplace to minimize risk of exposure
- Leveraging workforce data to track exposure and contain possible outbreaks at the workplace
- Bringing in the right tech solutions to enable smart decision making
To help organisations address these critical aspects for a seamless return to the workplace, ServiceNow has developed the Safe Workplace App Suite - a suite of applications crafted to gauge readiness and track exposure as workplaces call upon their workforce to return to work.
With employee well-being and safety being key priorities for business and talent leaders in 2021, how prepared they are to support a COVID-safe return to work will determine their ability to not just engage and retain existing talent, but will serve as a pull for potential talent, especially now as hiring sees an uptick to help businesses reboot and reset for growth post the pandemic.
The efforts employers take today to ensure workforce safety and a seamless experience in returning to the workplace, will go a long way in fostering a sense of engagement and loyalty, thereby also impacting wellness and productivity, consequently boosting organizational performance and revenue amid a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous business climate.
Discussing the readiness and approach of organizations as they leverage technology and build safety protocols to enable a seamless transition back to the workplace, industry leaders are coming together on February 24, 2021 at 11am SGT for an exclusive webcast - Your plan of action for a safe return to work - brought to you in partnership by People Matters and ServiceNow.
Register here for the upcoming webcast and gain access to insights on:
- Key challenges executives and employees face in the remote work vs return to work dilemma
- Required workflow changes to adapt to the changing work paradigm
- How the ServiceNow Safe Workplace Suite is empowering organizations across the globe in executing a safe return to work strategy, keeping both workforce and workplace readiness at its core