More than one year post-pandemic, many employees are finally starting to feel as though they’ve  gotten into the swing of things. However, as the pace of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout increases in the U.S. and more and more businesses start to open up, HR leaders are now faced with a new challenge: determining the most successful way to reopen their offices. 

With work-from-home statistics at an all time high, and reports pointing toward an obvious preference for a remote working environment, HR leaders have their work cut out. The key is to find a solution that employees can get behind while also paving a way toward slowly but surely getting back to “the way things used to be.” 

The Best Options for a Smooth Transition

During this time of change and uncertainty, consider opting for a working environment that allows flexibility and accommodation. A hybrid working model is, by far, the most suitable approach to satisfy these goals. Simply put, this set-up allows for an even split between time working from home and from the office. The way in which the time is split is entirely up to you and your leadership team to decide. Some common set-ups include in-office days every other day, every other week, or for the first half of the week or month. 

Considerations HR Leaders Should Keep in Mind

Once you have decided on a cadence for your hybrid working model, you will need to consider some unique circumstances to ensure a smooth transition. First, consider whether you will need to stagger employees’ in-office days to allow for continued social distancing and safety. If so, put together a schedule ahead of time to keep operations seamless.

“Working remotely for more than a year, it’s become clear that our employees have enjoyed the freedom of a more flexible work environment and are just as productive at home,” said Nikki Salenetri, VP, Human Resources at Gympass. “A hybrid working model will allow us to provide them this benefit while also providing the office as a place to collaborate and build relationships.” 

Next, consider the accommodations you will need to make to maintain a safe environment. For example, this might include hiring a cleaning crew to regularly sanitize the space, or investing in equipment that will decrease the chances of spreading germs; some common examples include plastic partitions and sanitizing stations placed throughout the office. Secure all of these investments ahead of time to ensure the office is fully functional and prepared before the employees come back. In any case, consult with your employment council to understand all measurements to maintain a safe work environment.

Then, consider how much notice you want to provide your employees about the switch to a hybrid working model. You should consider giving your employees enough time to make any personal adjustments or accommodations to prepare for this shift, so plan to provide at least one months’ notice, although three is ideal. Instruct employees to contact HR if they have any concerns about their health or safety returning to the office, and make a note in your email that continuing to work remotely on a full-time basis will be evaluated on an individual level.

Plan to have open, transparent conversations with your employees when they reach out. Many may have become acclimated to working from home and might be resistant to coming back in; others will have concerns about whether they can safely return. For example, those at high risk of experiencing serious side effects from the coronavirus (i.e., those with an autoimmune or respiratory disease) may not feel safe coming into the office, even if only on a part-time basis. 

Finally, consider how you will continue to support the health, safety, and wellness of your employees during this transition. Beyond ensuring the office is clean, think about how your workers will access the healthcare needed to contribute to a hazard-free environment. If your organization does not currently have a comprehensive wellness program in place, think about investing in one prior to reopening your office. 

If your organization is preparing to switch to a hybrid working model, making sure your employees have access to top-quality health care and wellness programs is a must. That is where Gympass comes in. With access to more than 37 wellness and fitness apps, along with partnerships with impressive companies like Life Time, Mindshine, and Runcoach, you can rest assured your employees will have everything they need to keep their minds, bodies, and souls healthy. Find out more today.