RETURNING TO THE OFFICE AFTER COVID: HOW TO PREPARE
In about a month, it will mark one year since the United States, and much of the world, went into a sudden “lock-down” that caused the most significant paradigm shift in business operations in a lifetime. While many of us had to “adapt” to working-from-home, overcoming the hurdles of access to data, phone-forwarding, necessary gear for Zoom meetings, cybersecurity and, let us face it, a comfortable place to work-at-home with chair, privacy and even some creature comforts, such as a stand-up desk. Twelve months later, we’ve made it our own. Some got there faster than others, but eventually, everyone adopted the work-from-home setup and acclimated to the new normal. So much so, employees started asking questions like, “Why can’t I always work from home?” In addition, employers started to consider the need for expensive office space. One thing is certain, the pandemic forced a new perspective on working, including an understanding of a collective loss of productivity when everyone is working from home.
Hybrid Work Arrangement
With a vaccine now available and a promise of mass inoculation by summer, the conversations about returning to the office – in one form or another – will begin to surface. It is fair to say at one point or another many of us will return to a form of office work at some point, even if it is a day or two a week. This means translating your work-from-home efficiency into a hybrid model that allows you to work from both locations without any loss of productivity. The setup at home that evolved over the past twelve months is not easily replicated in the office. Perhaps you bought things for yourself, such as a headset, seat cushion or a mobile phone stand. All these things made it a bit more comfortable or convenient to work-from-home, especially as you navigated kid’s remote learning, bandwidth hogging and family Zoom bombing. What once was an everyday routine will soon prove the necessary evil of trekking to the office with the assumption that you will remain just as efficient as before. To prepare, we assembled some tips to help you with the adjustment, maybe not the mental or emotional adjustments, but certainly some commonsense things you can do now to help yourself later.
Take A Workplace Assessment
Before the mandate to return to the office comes, conduct some research that will help you gain a valuable perspective into what lies ahead. This means talking to your employer and finding out about changes, such as safety protocols, distancing, mask wearing, testing requirements and equipment sharing. The CDC guidelines can help you formulate these questions ahead of any return will best prepare you and ensure you still are productive while at the office.
Understand the Technology
In addition to workplace changes many firms adopted technology to help facilitate productivity and the required safety protocols. These include Voice Over IP (VoIP) phones with work-from-anywhere capability, greater cloud adoption for ubiquitous data access, increased cybersecurity practices like Multi-factor authentication and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. If you understand the technology implemented over the last year – and how to take advantage of it – you can position yourself for increased productivity and adoption when you return to the office.
Understand What You Need to Stay Productive
Perhaps the high resolution monitor you have at home or vanity light you bought for Zoom, or maybe the phone stand you have on your home desk are things you became used to and contribute to your productivity. Identify whatever you believe is essential to your [new] work habits now and have the conversation with your employer about adopting them in the office when you return. Employers are also navigating this return to the office; imagine your clients are expecting you on a video Zoom call, but your computer in the office doesn’t have a camera. Do you pivot to your camera or request a webcam? The point is preparing your work environment ahead of time will save you time and frustration when you return to the office.
Prepare Yourself for Increased Security
Working from home, government aid and the adoption of new ways of doing business are all a dream come true for scammers and bad actors.
Cybercrime is on the rise and companies are forced to adopt increased security measures to protect their data, their clients and their money.
You may find the office environment has increased physical and logical security in place, such a security camera, stronger password protocols, multi-factor authentication and disabled USB drives. While this increased security may seem annoying and inconvenient, it is a particularly important step toward protecting the company and customers alike. Embrace the new security and use it to your advantage to stay safe and efficient. The return of employees to the workplace will vary by organization but will undoubtably occur in waves. Driven by business demands, risk categories and/or operational requirements, companies will approach the return in different ways. Employees may return to the office for a time while the organization determines the extent of remote work opportunities based on personal preferences and business demands.
Our team is constantly testing to identify the latest security challenges, changes and best practices to keep you safe and informed. We are always ready to assist you. Contact us.