The post-COVID-19 lockdown return to the office will be a challenge for everyone, but while there isn’t a one-model-fits-all procedure, there are many things employers can do to ensure they have the right approach, and this starts with communication, Monica Watt, chief HR officer at ELMO Cloud HR & Payroll, has said.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of communication and consultation. Understanding your employees’ fears of returning to the office, what is sound, what are you operating with... There is no one model,” Ms Watt underlined on a recent MyBusiness Live webcast on commercial success post-COVID-19.
Ms Watt shared ELMO’s approach, explaining that her team is currently looking to science to learn how the virus is managed and contracted. This enables employers to consider various work models, she explained.
“Do I have staggered hours? My ELMO HQ can roughly only take 80 employees when it roughly sits around 250. How is that going to operate? My lift in Sydney only allows for three people in a lift,” Ms Watts noted, adding that these are the logistical parameters to a full-time office transition.
But before making any decisions, start with communication, she reiterated.
“Ask your employees what their level of comfort is. Is it one day a week, two days a week? There is no one way to do this,” she said. “I think if you are going to try something — for example, staggered hours — and it doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean you have to keep going. You just need to recraft.
“So, the main thing is to communicate, to understand the fears and just plan, keep going.”
Employers were recently warned that they could face up to five years’ jail time and fines of $63,000 for requiring an employee to download and use the COVIDSafe app as a condition of employment.
Ms Watt, however, uses a different form of tracking.
“We are using tracking and it’s actually tracking that we would normally use for our visitors. So, we use a technology called WhosOnLocation, and it’s a notification that the user is given about who is onsite, when they check in and check out,” she said.
“I liken it to human Tetris. At every point and every time, we know who is in the office, where they’re going to be and what they’re going to be doing.”
She underlined that a person’s right to privacy must also be respected, but tracking office movements is key to tracing the spread of COVID-19 if it does enter the office.
“You’re not always going to be able to satisfy everyone, but remembering productivity and a level of comfort and engaging, recreating that community has to be the objective and the outcome,” Ms Watt concluded.
For more about building a safe work environment, listen to our webcast here.