Return to the office or keep working from home: checklist for businesses

Innatos - checklist for businesses - title

All around the world, little by little COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted. So, companies who used to have their employees working from home now have to make some decisions. These are about whether if they really need their workers to return to the office or not. Learn the checklist for businesses.


To open our office again is going to be a challenge, that’s for sure. The pandemic is far from over and you will need to take some steps to ensure that your employees remain healthy. This way you will protect them and make your office a safe environment.


For many organizations around the world, it will not be safe to return to the office for quite some time. But for others, it may be time to start cautiously planning a return to the office for at least some employees.


Return to the office or not?


How you move back to working from the office will depend on many factors. Some of these can include government regulations and requirements you need to comply with. Besides, you will also have to think about how you will be able to do this within the confines of your office, and the type of work that your employees will carry out.


The best way to start could be by dividing the return of the office into stages. For example, you can have some employees working from home and others from the office. This way, you will reduce the risk of infection by having a low number of people in your office at the same time.


There are different ways to do this. It could include having a roster of different “teams” who work one week from the office and one week from home, or you might have volunteers who wish to work in the office again all the time and others who would like to remain at home. 


Lessons learned from China’s return to the office


China was the first country that was able to get out of the COVID-19 restrictions. This came after the authorities closed off the city of Wuhan for a few months at the beginning of 2020.


However, Chinese businesses realized that they couldn’t go straight back to business as usual. As a result of the threats posed by the virus, they realized that they had to take a flexible approach. This included the return in stages as we said before.


Some other steps these Chineses businesses took include:


  • Ensuring that the staff implemented social distancing in the office.
  • Providing transport alternatives so employees didn’t have to use public transport.
  • Implementing health and safety checks at the workplace entrance.


Since there isn’t yet a cure or vaccine for this virus, it’s still a threat that can reappear at any moment without warning. Because of this, it’s important to make a plan just in case businesses have to pause their activities once again. In China and other parts of the world, some businesses reopened only to close again due to a new COVID-19 outbreak.


Ways of communication in the pandemic, checklist for businesses 


On the other hand, intern communications also played an important role. Companies had to keep their employees updated with everything related to the return of the office. Thus, this was critical for the success of this. All you need to do is constantly talk with your staff and tell them everything they need to know to make this easier for them.


A lot of companies started to use popular locals apps like DingTalk or WeChat to talk with their employees. Others just decided to stick with their internal ones. They did this to encourage exchange and interaction between them. Some global companies stopped using their global communication channels for their Chinese workers. The reason for this was that they realized that they had nothing on the local apps that the workers liked best.


Good employee communication should be clear, consistent, and transparent. Remember to also include two-way feedback. For this, you can create a “return to the office” survey for your employees. This way, you will be able to understand any concerns your frontline workers have. Thus, this will allow you to address them before they return to the office.


How other companies are coming back to the office. Checklist for businesses


This a matter that has worried millions of businesses around the world. Because of this, they are trying their best to ensure they have the appropriate protocols and measures in place. So, keep in mind that all of this will require making some changes to the behavior of employees.


The global investment bank, Citigroup, for example, restarted activities in their New York offices again in June. But only a small amount of its workforce returned (around 5%). So, they looked for volunteers from employees who had roles that didn’t suit the work from home practice. Thus, these employees were among the first to return to the office.


Now, the company is showing them videos about the new rules to follow once they return to the office building. These include how they have to enter the building and the protocol for the use of the bathrooms. Additionally, there are now fewer chairs in spaces like conference rooms. Plexiglass is also being used to separate desks.


Another company from New York, Silverstein Properties, has also returned its employees to the office. For this, they divided their employees into three groups. So, each group of employees must go to the office for two days. Then, they must work from home for four days. The company has also installed shields made of plexiglass at its desks. They also put antimicrobial films on surfaces in common areas that are touched a lot by people.

Innatos - woman with protection


Checklist for businesses for a return to the office building after COVID


Whether you decide to keep your employees working from home, or have them return to the office, you must know that this is a big decision to make. Besides, this will also take a lot of planning as well as considering every factor possible.


Legal guidelines


  • Determine whether it is safe to reopen or not. Does the community you work in require ongoing shelter in place or other restrictions? If the answer is yes, there could be legal consequences to reopening despite these orders.
  • Find out what government requirements are in place and make a plan to obey them. Will any government orders limit the way you want to reopen? 


checklist for businesses, Operational considerations


  • Look at how effective has been working from home for your company. Its this a successful or problematic option?
  • Has productivity decreased during the work from the home period?
  • Are there functions or tasks that can’t be done from home?
  • Has your technology failed frequently? 
  • Find out which employees should return to the office first, and when.
  • Prepare managers to be able to transition their team members back to the workplace. For this, you should give them the tools to help manage the situation.
  • Consult with employees and their representatives about their preferences and concerns.


Workplace arrangements


  • Are you able to put measures in place to protect any employees in a higher risk category?
  • Have you implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols?
  • Look at your workplace layout and consider what changes will need to be made to apply social distancing. Cancel every non-essential business trip.
  • Ensure appropriate distances between seats/desks.
  • Provide barriers.
  • Place visual markers on the floor.
  • Develop elevator protocols to prevent crowding.
  • Provide sanitizers, masks, and other PPE.
  • Encourage etiquette with coughing and sneezing.
  • Opening and closing times by stages.
  • Restrictions on some shared spaces or shared facilities.
  • Determine how employees can get to and from work safely. If they are using public transport, will they be putting their colleagues at risk?


checklist for businesses, Update policies and procedures


  • Create and share training materials on safety procedures around the return to the office building.
  • Create protocols around sick employees. This means that anyone with symptoms must stay home.
  • Create protocols around anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. So, let them know that they must isolate themselves for a specified period of time.
  • Implement employee health checks.
  • Protocols if an employee tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Have clear policies about illness and reporting it to Human Resources.
  • Develop an emergency communications plan and review communications channels.
  • Develop regular and COVID related internal communications messages and resources.




Having employees come back to the office after the coronavirus pandemic isn’t easy and straightforward. A lot of changes can stay with us for a long time. Thus, being prepared for any issues that may arise at any second helps you to face them. You must commit yourself to have open communication with your staff. All of this can ensure your success and the health of your employees.

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