After weeks of working from home, businesses are starting to think about how to reopen. Some companies may already be testing the waters with a few employees in-office, others may be preparing a distributed model that works for them. No matter what your country, state, city, or even county’s policy towards reopening is, deciding when and how to reopen your business is a unique decision for each company.
Keep in mind that reopening your business is going to be a gradual process. You’ll have to take practical considerations into account, like how to reopen your physical space to enable social distancing. You may have to create management processes to keep your team members engaged and connected during these changes. At some point, you’ll have to make HR decisions about how to hire and onboard new team members. Ultimately, no one can tell you exactly how to reopen your business. But, when you’re ready, here are 6 steps to help you reopen safely.
1. Set and share your reopening goals
In addition to local legal guidelines, every company has to answer several questions on the path to reopening. How can you reconfigure your physical space in order to encourage social distancing? Who is returning to office first? What accommodations, if any, can you provide to parents who may be homeschooling their children? How can you customize your reopening policy to accommodate different employee needs?
To make sure your team is fully equipped to answer these questions, define your reopening goals. As you prepare to reopen, clarify who is going back to the office first. Share what policies are optional and which are mandatory, and provide a space for your employees to ask questions. At Asana, we’ve created a Q&A project where all employees can drop questions about remote work and someone from the HR department can go in and help them.
Additionally, make sure to factor in how to include all teammates in your reopening plan. Building an inclusive community is key right now—and that starts by acknowledging that some groups might be disproportionately affected by the remote work and reopening environment. In particular, create space for underrepresented minorities, parents, and team members in different time zones to make their voices heard.
2. Before reopening: communicate the plan
Before you reopen any part of your business, make sure you’re communicating frequently and consistently with your team. The plan may change, and no one is expecting that you have all of the answers, but providing the clarity you can will help your team stay engaged and informed. Whether you hold an all hands with updates, share them in written playbooks, or communicate them through status updates, make sure you’re communicating in a format your employees can refer back to frequently.
Standardize how you’re communicating, where those communications are stored, and how frequently you’re updating your team. If you created a business continuity plan for your time working remotely, you might also want to consider creating one for your return to office. Clarify who employees should contact, what the policies are, what resources they have available to them, and more. Having a clear path forward, and communicating that path effectively with your team, will reduce confusion and empower your team to get their best work done—no matter where they’re working from.
3. Modify your physical space if necessary
When you reopen your business, you might find that the way you used to organize your desk space or create physical flow in your workspace isn’t conducive to social distancing practices. Part of the reopening process may include redesigning your office space to maximize health and safety.
Plan and track any physical changes your company needs to undertake with the facilities requests template. In the same project, you can also use custom fields to clarify which tasks are high, medium, and low priority.
4. Empower your employees to clarify their working hours and locations
As you reopen, some employees will be working from the office, some may be working from home, and some may work from different places depending on the day of the week. Managing dispersed and home-bound employees can get tricky, but features like Profile Settings can help your team clarify where everyone is working.
At Asana, we use the “About me” section in Profile Settings to clarify where we’re working from, what hours we’re online, and how to best reach us. To go a step further, encourage your team to use “show me as away” and “Do Not Disturb” features. That way, everyone has clarity and visibility into teammates’ locations and work hours.
5. Treat reopening like re-onboarding your team
The remote work and reopening process has one piece of silver lining: it’s a shared experience that can bring your team closer. However, in order to enhance this connection between employees, it’s more important than ever to uphold your company values and cultural tenets. Whether you’re returning to office in full force, working as a mostly distributed team, or developing a hybrid location model, create space for your team to reconnect with each other and your company values.
One great way to do this is to create an onboarding checklist for managers and employees as teams come back to work. To do so, start with a traditional new hire checklist, then add items for your unique reopening situation like lunch schedules or social distancing-enabled happy hour opportunities.
6. Manage shifting priorities
During the shift to remote work, amidst the uncertainty that many companies were facing, projects were put on the backburner, priorities were rearranged, and tasks were deferred.
Your team may not be ready to fully pick up where you left off, but you also don’t want to lose the work you were preparing to do before the pandemic. With Asana, you can remove task due dates without losing the context, assignee, or details within the task. Then, when you’re ready to pick the work back up, all you have to do is assign a due date.
To capture, track, and manage shifting priorities, create a Portfolio of all projects—both live and on hold. With all of your work in one place, you can get a bird’s-eye view of project progress, put work on hold if necessary, or pick projects up again whenever you’re ready.
Remember: your team is resilient. You just went through a trial, but you will pick yourself back up and move forward once again. Helping your team prioritize without too much thrash, and supporting them as they ramp up on sidelined projects, is the best way to help them succeed and focus on work that matters.
The road to reopening
There’s no one stop shop to reopening your business. Reopen if and when it’s right for you, keep different employee needs in mind, and make sure to listen to local guidelines, legal requirements, and health recommendations.
When you’re ready to reopen, Asana can help you communicate with your team, find your processes, and track the necessary work. Learn about how Asana can help your team, or read our resource guide for more.