“I’m ready to get back to work, but . . . “ we heard a woman say this week.
“I’m ready to go back too, but . . . “ answered the man she was talking to.
You have probably heard a lot of people say those things. And when you do, it would be a good idea to sit up and pay attention, because whatever they say after they say “but” is really important to hear.
It’s because after they say but, they will reveal their biggest fears about going back to work. They might say, for example, “I’m ready to go back to work, but I’m afraid to ride the trains” or, “I’m ready to go back to work, but I wonder how my company will clean the premises overnight every day.” Or even, “I’m ready to go back to work, but I’m worried about being so distant from my kids every day.”
People Are Worried about Returning to Work
The fact of the matter is, all of us who are returning to work have concerns. The one reality we all can agree on is that no matter what happens, things are going to be a lot different than they were before COVID-19 came along. Another thing we can probably all agree about is that all of us are worried, if not downright scared, about some aspect of returning to work.
But your company can dramatically reduce some of the fears - maybe even eliminate some of them - if you allow your employees to work from shared remote drop in work spaces.
Let’s consider some of the fears that people are expressing most often these days as they contemplate their return to work.
“I am worried that I will be exposed to the virus during my commute.”
Well, why shouldn’t people be worried about that? A typical commute requires people to pass through a variety of settings where they will have a difficult time socially distancing from other people, including:
Train and bus stations, where they need to wait in common areas, get online to buy and pay for tickets, stand in boarding lines, and otherwise expose themselves.
The interiors of buses and trains, where they could be in close proximity to other commuters.
Subways, buses and other connections that transport them between larger commuting hubs and their places of work.
Then there is the simple activity of walking down the street, walking from parking lots, and tackling other on-foot activities that are part of the commute.
The solution? Allowing your employees to work from home, or form shared drop in work space that are near their homes. Doing that can eliminate their exposure to other people - and allay their well-grounded concerns and fears.
“I am worried that I will be exposed to the virus in my office building”
This is another valid concern. Any kind of building that is home to multiple businesses presents situations that suddenly seem dangerous now that exposure to the virus is on everyone’s mind. Some of the activities people are worried about include:
- Sharing elevators with other people. It’s one of the biggest worries people are talking about today. Even escalators and staircases are causing concern.
- Passing through lobbies and common areas.
- Entering and exiting through revolving and other entrance/exit doors.
- Buying coffee, tea and snacks at in-building concessions.
The solution? Again, allowing employees to work from home, or from shared drop in work space near their homes.
“I am worried that neither the building or the working spaces will be adequately cleaned.”
This is a very real concern. But please be aware that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for both preparing work premises and for keeping them properly cleaned and virus-free. But just knowing that the guidelines exist isn’t enough. Take these steps too:
If your company leases space in an office building, your management should obtain documentation from the landlord that describes the procedures that are being followed, and according to what schedule.
Make sure that your company management is using the correct, CDC-approved procedures to maintain the cleanliness of work areas, including cubicles, offices, shared common areas and snack rooms, restrooms, and more.
If your company is allowing employees to work in shared work spaces that are located away from company-owned facilities, have company management make sure that those facilities and spaces are being correctly and consistently cleaned and disinfected.
The solution? Ask about the procedures that are being used to keep work areas clean and virus-free, and get documentation of what is being done. And continue to ask what is being done. This is one time when being ultra-vigilant is necessary to protect yourself and your employees.
“Even though we are using a remote shared work space, I am worried about how well it is being maintained and kept safe.”
This is a very valid concern when your company is trying to keep your employees safe from an extreme health threat such as COVID-19. Here are some steps to take that can help assure that your employees are being protected - and that they will feel safe about using the off-site drop in work spaces you have selected:
Ask, and make sure that proper CDC-approved procedures and protocols are being observed in those work spaces.
Be sure that touchless check-in routines are being used, as they should be.
Ask whether appropriate and current anti-virus screening checks, such as temperature testing, are being performed on all persons who are entering the premises.
Also make sure that the work area is set up to allow appropriate distance between all the people who are working.
And be sure to get a statement from the work space administrators that outlines the CDC-approved guidelines that are being used to clean and disinfect the building where the coworking space is located, including elevators, lobbies, and all common areas.
In Summary . . .
You and your team are getting ready to go back to work. But is that really true? Maybe not, because everyone in your company is going somewhere that has changed dramatically, and not back to the same place.
The key is to be methodical when making decisions about the safety of everyone who is part of your enterprise. We believe that many of the challenges you need to confront will be addressed if you decide to let some of your employees work at shared coworking spaces instead of in your home office or offices.
We will all get there! We will all safely get back to work. And we wish you good health and good progress at every step of the way.