The Best Resources for Planning your Return to the Office


Jeff Gapinski

3 women sitting at a table with their laptops working

As we welcome the first signs of spring, we can’t help but think of the rebirth that’s in store for our workplaces and how much we’re looking forward to getting back to the office. With major companies like Apple, Amazon, and Facebook already announcing their intent to return to the office in 2021, it isn’t too early to begin thinking about your own post-COVID workplace return plans. And with 87% of employees saying the office is important for collaborating with team members and building relationships according to a survey by PwC, we know it’s in your team’s best interest to get back to their workspaces once it’s safe to do so.

Of course, returning to the office safely will require smart planning that inevitably changes the way office life was pre-COVID. While we’re hopeful that the personal and professional benefits of seeing our colleagues in person will come back naturally, other areas of the return, from the actual layout of the office to health guidelines to making sure your employees are comfortable, will require proactive consideration. 

With all that you’re already doing to make sure your team is happy and healthy while working remotely, we don’t expect you to read a whole book on the subject (though, for the overachievers among us, we obviously have a recommendation—Healthy Buildings by Joseph G. Allen and John D. Macomber) so as we begin thinking about our own return to the office at Bevi, we want to share the tips and resources that our own HR team and office manager are finding most helpful!

Keep following the experts

As we’ve done at each stage of navigating the pandemic from home, staying up-to-date with leading health and workplace experts will allow us to communicate important guidelines to our teams. To cover your bases, we recommend a mix of national health agencies, local branches of government, and workplace specialists.

To keep up with the OSHA recommendations for preparing workplaces for COVID-19, you can find their guidelines here.

If you’re on Twitter, you can follow the CDC, your local government (for Bevi HQ, that’s @MassGov), and workplace experts like Joseph G. Allen, Commissioner and Chair for the Task Force on Safe Work, and the author mentioned above.

For all things HR, our Sr. Director of People Operations recommends HRDive, a succinct aggregator of key laws, policies, trends, and news.

Not all workplaces are alike so while agencies like OSHA and the CDC will cover most general issues, it’s also worth looking into the leading voices in your sector for guidance on the challenges unique to your industry.

Make a plan and listen to your employees

Clear communication will be key to a smooth return, and it should be a two-way street. As you communicate information from the experts above, make sure to allow room for employee feedback. 

For the most honest feedback, consider creating an anonymous survey with Google Forms to gauge interest and concerns before you return to the office. Then, once employees have been back in the office for a month or two, send a follow-up survey to see how you’re meeting expectations and to solicit suggestions for improving your team’s experience.

In addition to collecting information in real-time, you might also take a page out of Robin’s book and create a Return to Work Playbook that’s shared ahead of your return. It will show that you’ve been giving careful consideration to your employees’ health and safety, provide answers to frequently asked questions, and ensure that the whole team is on the same page.

Take a look at Robin’s template for returning to work here.

Be flexible and transparent

Guidelines can and will change. As more companies return to the office, they’ll be able to share successes, challenges, and hacks from their experience that might offer some insight into how you can streamline your own return. As these stories are shared on company blogs and other online platforms, you can passively monitor the conversation by setting Google Alerts. We recommend starting with a few topics like these:

  1. Return to office
  2. Hybrid work
  3. Preparing the workplace for COVID-19

Prepare the physical office

Before people actually return to these spaces, you’ll need to consider the flow and design of your workplace as it was and as it will need to be reimagined given what we now know about health and safety. Remember that book we recommended that there definitely won’t be a pop quiz on? Author Joseph G. Allen recommends a layered approach to preparing a healthy and safe space. According to him, “Healthy-building strategies like better ventilation, better filtration…distancing, de-densification and managing people through elevators and lobbies” along with common individual practices like mask-wearing will work best together and keep employees the safest.

For further reading and listening on preparing your physical space, McKinsey offers 4 Steps to Reimagine Work and the Workplace, and VentureFizz hosts a webinar titled Return to the Office, a Discussion About the Workplace.

Returning to the office after a year away is going to present some challenges, but we hope these tips and resources give you a starting point to begin formulating a plan that works for you and your team. 

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, that’s okay! We’re all going to figure this out together, continue to share resources, and keep each other safe and productive.

What tips do you have for successfully returning to the office? We’d love for you to share this article and join the conversation on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!


Jeff Gapinski

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