Office Return: Plan Ahead for a New Workplace Normal

It is understandable that employees might be feeling anxious about re-entering the office where once they so freely collaborated and conversed with others.  Everyone is in some sense preparing for the “new normal” at the centre of which is a valid fear of the coronavirus.  According to a recent study conducted by Forrester, 59% of surveyed employees are afraid of its spread.  As company leaders begin to think of returning their staff to an office, it is important that they plan for it in advance, consider the impacts on morale, and make adjustments to minimize any risks of infection.

Employer Obligations

Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) requires employers to take all reasonable precautions to ensure the health and safety of its workers.  Before moving everyone back into the office, it is prudent to identify and assess risks for COVID19 specific to your company and devise a plan for minimizing those risks.  Evaluate which elements of your business require frequent contact between people, what the movement patterns are, and which rooms as well as objects are shared.

This is the time to revisit and adjust organizational policies to include items such as hygiene, work from home guidelines, or reporting of personal travel and illness.  As an employer it is also your responsibility to ensure that the office is equipped with enough hand soap and sanitizer, that surfaces are disinfected regularly, and to take immediate and appropriate steps in isolating anyone who presents symptoms of an infectious nature.

Reconfiguring the Workspace

Whether yours is an open-concept office or a traditional closed floor plan, consider and understand how the space was being used prior to COVID19.  Were people apt to gathering in one particular area?  What are the high traffic spots and how closely are employees sitting to one another?  Depending on the size of your workforce and office density, explore opportunities for reseating your team to every other desk in any open areas, to leave more distance in between.  If that is not possible, partitions or privacy screens are a good solution.

Minimize use of shared objects such as printers or copiers by shifting to a paperless environment.  Limit the number of persons in smaller, more contained spaces, such as the kitchen, bathroom, or the boardroom.  If you can open windows to let in some fresh air regularly, do so.  Place markers on the floor to direct traffic.  These are just some ways in which you can make low-cost adaptations to the workplace so returning employees will feel safer.

PPE’s & Screening

The Government of Canada recommends that “outside of the health care context, PPE should only be used on the advice of an organization’s occupational health and safety department, based on a risk assessment that considers both the risk associated with a specific task/activity as well as the characteristics of the source of the infection (e.g. a sick person or a contaminated environment).”  Some organizations are requiring employees to wear masks and gloves.  Others have initiated employee questionnaires to assess for illness.  Lean on your health and safety committee to determine what is most appropriate for your company and be sure to consider employee privacy as well as discrimination issues, particularly when implementing any COVID-19 screening practices.

Paced & Strategic Reintroduction

If you don’t have to rush moving everyone back into the office, pacing the return is a smart approach. Start with essential staff who cannot work well remotely and then add a second wave of employees.  At first you can also introduce shifts or staggered work times to ensure there are less people in the office at a given time.  You have likely invested in technologies and other setups for remote work so continue to make use of this arrangement, encouraging staff to work from home as much as possible.

Communication & Morale

A lot of anxiety around returning to the office can be dispelled through regular communication with your team.  Inform them about the steps you are taking to minimize risk and encourage a culture of feedback.  Provide information and updates from government and public health groups.  Post instructions for proper hygiene and cleaning of surfaces.  Educate your employees about the effectiveness of social distancing and encourage leaders to model distancing behaviours such as stopping handshakes, keeping a gap of at least two meters from each other, and staying home when feeling ill.

As swiftly as we had to acclimatize to remote work, just as quickly we will now have to readjust to a new way of working.  There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this.  Once again each company will have to find the right balance of business continuity and employee safety measures, and likely keep adapting them in the months to come.  The way we interact with one another, from business meetings to team brainstorming sessions, is going to be different, at least for the foreseeable future.  Companies that embrace the changes will be that much more resilient.

This article is a contribution by HIRE Technologies. PTC Recruiting is a subsidiary of HIRE

Contract Staffing To Support Your Business

PTC has been in the recruitment business for 3 decades and has witnessed multiple economic ups and downs, from the global financial crisis to the current COVID-19 pandemic. As we navigate this unprecedented landscape and its impact on the economy, we continue to support companies by providing temporary and contract staffing solutions. 

Businesses can benefit from contract staffing in a number of ways, especially in such challenging periods:

Cost-Effective Solution 

In order to remain competitive, to reduce overhead costs and to manage cash flows in such uncertain times, hiring temporary employees proves to be a cost-effective solution. Temporary employees work on specific projects for certain number of hours. If your business is seeking short-term support or requires additional help to manage workload due to unexpected external variables, hiring contract workers is ideal. 

Specialized Workforce 

Temporary and contract workers are equipped with specialized skill sets and hone a wide range of industry knowledge and experience. As a result, they are well-armed to fill skill gaps within an organization, allowing for businesses to continue with smooth operations.

Shorter Hiring Process

Businesses turn to contract workforce solutions because they benefit from a shorter hiring process. Contractors are experienced with time-sensitive projects and are often available to start immediately, once hired. 

Contract To Hire 

Hiring contractors is a great way for companies to test the waters and assess cultural fit. Companies get to work with contractors for a definitive period of time, allowing them to evaluate their skills and performance without having the pressure to commit to permanent employment.

Increase Talent Pool

Given this economic climate, many experienced candidates find themselves either unemployed or underemployed. Companies should use this opportunity to conduct a thorough ‘candidate market’ assessment and expand their talent pool to meet future workforce demand once the crisis settles. 

As we face the long-reaching implications of COVID-19 together, our goal is to support and champion your staffing needs at all times.

Recruiting in the Time of Social Distancing

By Elizabeth Connelly, Vice President

The challenging reality of COVID19 in Canada continues to unfold daily, leaving many businesses in a scramble to deal with its effects.  Hiring, as a result, may have slid down your priority list yet it’s important to keep your grasp on top finance and accounting talent, particularly in preparation for a different economic landscape to come.  But how should you proceed with recruiting in a new time of social distancing and isolation?  Here are some tips to keep you engaged with top talent and continue to build a strong relationship without in-person meetings:

Keep the Line of Communication Strong

While we remain in isolation mode and shift gears to crisis management, it shouldn’t mean that communication with candidates of choice must cease.  Video conferencing, text messaging, email – these are all very obvious ways that you can use technology to stay in touch and get to know them further without having to meet in person.  Think of this as an opportunity to nurture that relationship and take it to the next level, beating your competition to the finish line when everything goes back to normal. 

Impress Through Marketing

Instead of inviting the candidate to your office to meet with the team, woo them by sending a customized, well-designed package, either digitally or by snail mail, that contains information about your company’s achievements, industry highlights, and company culture.  Include statistics, team bios, and even positive testimonials from other employees.  Show your company’s personality through branded graphics and office photos.  Candidates will appreciate the effort and it will help to sway their decision in your favour.  

Develop a Revised On-boarding Plan

Hiring during this time may require on-boarding the candidate while your office remains closed and everyone continues to work from home.  Adjust your company’s plans accordingly so that anyone joining your team will feel welcomed and appropriately supported despite not having too much face-to-face time.  Set up a group video call giving everyone an opportunity to introduce themselves, provide necessary training remotely, and adjust your expectations for roles that do not normally accommodate working from home, as the learning curve might be a bit steeper.  

Supporting each other is essential to navigating through the current, COVID19-imposed hiring challenges.  For companies this means adjusting their expectations and for candidates it means being flexible and patient.