To return to office or not?

Tuesday October 13 2020

A man uses a smartphone. Over 35 per cent of respondents said finding gig work is easier on a digital platform. PHOTO | BUSINESS DAILY


How do we tell employees to return to the office when most have adapted fully to remote working? This is a fundamental question on most employers’ minds. The past four months have introduced the work world to new possibilities.
About a year ago, forward-thinking organisations had a four-day work at the office and one day at home policy and that was a good employer value proposition, enough to persuade a prospective employee. Now, that means nothing.
Organisations are grappling with finding that fine balance between physical presence and employee safety. For employees to find a sense of comfort in returning to the office, if at all, sanitisers will need to be installed in all common areas, from entrances, lift lobbies, corridors, meeting rooms and in washrooms, not to mention social distance markings at the reception areas, inside the lifts and other common areas.
All staff will need to wear three-ply face masks, there should be regular tests on staff who engage with clients more frequently than others, for example receptionists, tea assistants, security personnel and so on.
In addition, there should be isolation rooms set aside to handle emergency cases. Cafeterias will need social distance markings or eating rotas to reduce the risk of infections. Oh, and free lunch may need a rethink as employers have little control on the health and safety related to cooking and service.
Work rotas may need to be introduced to ensure no two people sharing an office are there at the same time. And decontamination and fumigation will be frequent.
Let us face it, this is no mean feat considering the related implementation costs at a time most organisations have taken a hit on their income.
The readiness exercise will be painful but necessary since we are dealing with a virus that makes it difficult to tell when there is zero risk.
More than 150 Covid-19 vaccines are being developed. Six are in final large-scale clinical trials. Governments have invested $10 billion (Sh1 trillion) in them. Effectiveness is not assured since 20 percent fail in final trials and some Covid-19 vaccines rely on new technologies.

Online meetings
We have a long way to go before we can eliminate Covid-19 risks so investing in compliance will not be an exerrcise in futility.
To those who think it is, the real waste will be to wait for a successful vaccine before ‘resuming’ normal work
There is also a good number of employees who are already getting bored with online meetings.
For some, they are a flat and dispirited substitute to real gatherings.
Whichever way, business leaders need to think of a way of getting back or should I say halfway back