With a wide reopening effort expanding across the country to support the roughly 141 million vaccinated Americans, it’s likely that a return to the office is on the horizon. While some organizations adopted permanent work-from-home policies, others are planning to bring their workforce back into the workplace.

However, this isn’t the same office place employees left. It’s imperative that leaders consider new policies to ensure employees feel safe and secure as they make the shift back. Here are five new workplace policies to implement to do exactly that.

Go beyond your regular janitorial service. 

We all became pretty familiar with the sanitization and intense cleaning procedures of the pandemic—but is it still important to keep up with those same practices? In short, the answer is yes. While mask mandates may not be required and you won’t be performing regular temperature screenings, employees will likely still expect a high level of accountability from you when it comes to their health.

In a survey of 500+ upper-level managers and executives, roughly 83 percent of respondents made it clear that they were updating their cleaning procedures. This includes going beyond regular janitorial services that might address dust or clutter, and hiring a complimentary professional cleaning service to disinfect surfaces, sanitize high-traffic areas and limit the potential for spread of any virus or bacteria.

Follow CDC cleaning guidelines if you’re not sure where to start.

Update your office layout.

The modern office had become one that had an open floor plan so employees could easily connect and communicate. However, post-COVID, it’s important to provide employees with the opportunity to connect without feeling as though their personal space is being invaded at all times. 

Making this happen can be as simple as shifting the desk layout of the office and setting up a calendar for reserving private spaces, like conference rooms. Employees can move between the open office space and a closed-off conference room or workspace as they feel they need to. 

Don’t forget to consider the kitchen layout. For example, instead of large group tables, invest in smaller, socially distant tables. Experts at Strong Project, Modern Office Furniture suggest: 

“Offices that once had crowded tables may want to remove some tables to create a more socially distanced layout and install bar seating to save on square footage. Covered outdoor spaces and tables will help, too.”

Develop a company-wide flex-day policy.

While some employees may have enjoyed the work from home environment, the data overwhelmingly shows that most employees are experiencing intense burnout. Experts at Gallup shared that before the pandemic, “many employees had the flexibility and autonomy to show up in the office a few days a week or work remotely as needed…Now, working entirely from home during the pandemic might feel more like being “trapped at home” instead of a perk.”

Still, not all employees are comfortable with going back to the office. To help your team ease back into the workplace, implement a monthly “flex day,” where the entire company has the option to take one or a few days to work from home. This gives everyone a chance to reconnect after being remote for a year or more without feeling the need to go all in right away. 

Refocus on transparency.

The pandemic presented a variety of challenges for business owners, and it’s easy to feel like there may be a risk in sharing those challenges with your employees. Instead of keeping those decisions, ideas or concerns close to the chest, develop a regular and transparent system for sharing company-wide updates. Experts from the Great Game of Business share their experience with being more transparent: 

“In the case of finding out a company isn’t as profitable as a person assumed, we’ve learned that people are willing to step up and fight to help their organization. In the case of employees finding out that the organization is generating more revenue than people expected, this provides an opportunity to point out the company-wide actions that led to that success and what individuals can to help the organization achieve even greater success.”

Quarterly “all-hands” meetings give leadership a chance to share this information to everyone at one time. This format also allows for Q&A, so everyone understands what’s going on and what it means for them and the company.

Implement employee wellness surveys and interviews.

Are we listening to your employees? Do you know what they need to succeed? Regular wellness surveys should be an integral part of your approach to bringing teams back into the office. By opening a strong line of communication with your team, you’ll be able to better address their unique needs and create a safe, dynamic place for them to work. 

You may find that they want more conference room areas and care less about being able to work flexibly from home. Use what they want as a foundation for the changes you make as you bring everyone back into the office. 

Implement New Workplace Policies

Life in the workplace has changed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t safely return employees to the office. Use these strategies and policies to make sure everyone stays safe as they come together again while taking into account the fears and concerns many employees still have. Don’t forget to keep an open line of communication—you may be surprised to learn what your employees need right now, and understanding that will make the rest easier.

Posted by Elaine Bennett

Elaine Bennett is an Australian-based digital marketing specialist focused on helping startups and small businesses grow. She writes hands-on articles about business and marketing, as it allows her to reach even more people and help them on their business journey.