As the COVID-19 (known as the coronavirus) pandemic continues to affect not only our lives as individuals, but our organization as a collective, we have had to make changes to not just our way of life, but the ways our organizations operate. This includes heeding to city, county, or state orders, which includes work-from-home requirements, changing working hours, changes in standard operating procedures, and in some cases, furloughing or laying off a portion of the workforce for the short and long-term health of these organizations. No one could have foreseen such a change in our way of life so suddenly and completely.
IT departments and MSPs have had to scramble, sometimes on days’ notice, figuring out how to support not only their employees but maintain relationships and continue to offer quality service to so many clients in so many different locations. For organizations not used to a 100% work-from-home workforce, it has created unexpected challenges.
But with all of that said, we all look forward to the day where our stay-at-home orders get lifted, and we can inch closer to some sort of normalcy in not only our own personal lives but our organizations. That is why it is never too early to game plan what would that would look like. Do you bring all of your employees back to the office at once? What do you do in the offices to prepare for this? Do you give your workforce a period of time to prepare? Here are some things to think about:
1. Get your infrastructure prepared in advance of the return
Most offices will likely have not only networking and computer equipment the way they left it, but that doesn’t mean it will work the way they left it back in March. It is worth considering bringing in an IT team already knowledgeable of the existing environment and infrastructure to conduct the proper testing and quality assurance of computers networking equipment, and wiring, to make sure when employees come back, everything is as it was before they left.
2. Decide who should come back first, or should everyone come back at once, or even at all?
Your organization’s management may want to gather a list of employees or teams that are deemed to be essential to return to the offices, based on existing demand of their work and whether or not face to face contact with fellow employees is absolutely required to perform their duties.
Furthermore, consideration should also be made to be based on the employee’s own personal situation. For example, some employees may have children in which their daycare or school may not have opened yet, so it may be worth keeping those workers at home until they can make the necessary child care arrangements. Some employees may have underlying conditions that may make returning to a location with a lot of people more septuple of getting ill from COVID-19. And some may not feel fully comfortable with returning to an office setting in the same timeline in which the company wants to bring employees back in.
Some organizations may decide to forego the office setting altogether and move to a permanent remote workforce going forward. This now creates a separate set of challenges. For example, how do you spin down existing networking or computer hardware at the old offices? How does the scope of support change now that the change to remote is set in stone? The organization and the IT team or MSP should work in tandem to game plan how such a migration should take place.
3. Getting the workforce prepared to return
Many employees by now have established workflow in the comfort of their own homes, whether it’s a home office, a garage, or their living rooms. For some employees, having the employees get completely uprooted from working in a professional office setting to working at home was not just a change of pace, but maybe also completely foreign to them.
Now that they are in a setting where they may now be comfortable, getting them back in a different, yet familiar, the environment may be a challenge mentally. It’s almost like jumping from one job to another, and back again, in a lot of ways. With that, it may be worthwhile to announce the return to offices sometime in advance so as to get people both physically prepared and mentally prepared. It also gives employees some time to get affairs in order so, by the time the day comes, they’re 100% prepared.
4. Practicing Social Distancing as recommended by local, state and federal authorities
Many doctors have recommended that everyone practices social distancing when necessary when out and about. While this continues to be the norm, this should also be practiced in the workplace for as long as needed. Some offices are spacious enough to where desks or workspaces are more than the required six feet, while some environments such as retail, construction, or storefronts may require extra precautions to keep everyone safe. This should be considered for when employees and departments return to the offices.
5. Clients’ Requirements and Their Guidelines
Many IT organizations and MSP offer on-site services to their own clients’ offices to perform work. These organizations should remain in communication with each other to determine when the resumption of such services should take place, and what precautions should take place for the safety and well-being of all employees of both organizations. Some clients may have different guidelines, and may not come back to the offices as soon as the IT organization, or may come back much sooner than the IT organization and may require on-site support upon their return. All of these should be considered when game-planning the scoping of support.
It is no doubt that COVID-19 has affected how our organizations operate and how we manage the workforce. Many of us are looking forward to returning to a bit of normalcy, which includes coming back to the offices. But to get there requires a game plan, working with your IT team, and working with your employees. When this happens, you not only have a happier workforce, you are more primed for success, and everything is ready to work like nothing happened at all. Just be safe everyone!