Back to Office Won’t Mean Back to Normal

As governments around the world ease their lockdowns, businesses must decide how, when and if to return their employees to offices. Most companies are realizing that back to the office will not mean back to normal. And as they prepare to restart their operations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important that they understand the concerns and expectations their employees have for returning to the office so that they can do so in a safe and efficient manner.

The fact is, the vast majority of workers around the world remain anxious about heading back to the office and want to be sure that they are not putting themselves or their families at risk. According to a recent survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Citrix, 64 percent of 2,000 US workers polled said they would not feel comfortable returning for one month or more. And three percent said the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their approach to work and that they don’t ever want to go back full time.

Prepare for the Next Normal

Historically, the office was the place where collaboration and innovation happened. Outside meeting spaces, colleagues held casual conversations in hallways, cafeterias and gyms. But protocols designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus have changed this. Physical office spaces must now be configured to allow for social distancing. Employee schedules have to be revised to reduce the number of people in buildings at one time. Employees are required to be screened before they enter the premises. And visitors may not be allowed.

Many employees simply don’t want to deal with the hassle and anxiety associated with all of this. But there are some things companies can do to minimize both. Digital workspaces, for instance, can help companies navigate the uncharted waters that COVID-19 has set them sailing in.

Deliver a Superior Employee Experience with Safety and Wellness in Mind

With digital workspaces, companies can provide a consistent work experience that allows employees to perform at their best. They can even address safety and health in the office environment and simply and efficiently manage vital tasks associated with re-opening offices, including:

· Conducting employee readiness surveys

· Identifying and managing the moments that matter most to employees upon returning to the workplace, such as where they will sit or how team and customer meetings will be handled

· Executing safety protocols

· Performing health screenings and self-certifications

· Managing occupancy to ensure social distancing

· Location mapping and contact tracing

· Designing communications strategies

Accommodate Changing Work and Lifestyles

Organizations are fast embracing microapp capabilities that enable them to meet the changing needs of their employees and customers. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, City National Bank of Florida (CNB) had to scale back physical operations at banking center locations to protect its employees, clients and the communities it serves.

“As we prepare to fully reopen these locations, it is critical that people feel safe,” said Ariel Carrion, Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, City National Bank of Florida. And the bank is leaning on its workspace technology to provide a sense of comfort. “The microapp capabilities within Citrix Workspace will help us manage safety protocols on an ongoing basis and instill the confidence and trust of our employees and clients.”

Build the Office of the Future

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is on board as well, and intends to use the same microapp capabilities within its Intelligent Workplace solution to enable employees to quickly and easily complete tasks associated with returning to offices across five key areas:

· Employee Wellness: Complete health agreements stating no symptoms of COVID-19 prior to arriving at office

· Smart Social Distancing: Access maps and occupancy information for different parts of the building, reserve conference rooms and hot desks

· Workplace Safety: Confirm that shared spaces in building have been cleaned

· Workplace PPE: Locate personal protective equipment and sanitation stations

“COVID-19 has challenged businesses to respond to the crisis quickly and rethink their workforce strategies in real time,” said Saadat Malik, Vice President for IoT and Intelligent Edge Services at HPE. “HPE’s Intelligent Workplace solution is designed to help companies engage and enable employees; attract and retain talent; and ensure safety and security while controlling workplace costs. And by leveraging innovative microapps, we can enhance existing solutions with components that are tailor made for COVID-19 response.”

There is there is no blueprint for safely returning employees to the office. But with the right technology and insights, companies can create a path to drive their business forward in whatever the next normal may be.

Tim Minahan is the executive vice president, business strategy and chief marketing officer at Citrix, a leading provider of digital workspace solutions.

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