How to manage the transition back into office working 

Will we ever go back to working in an office 9-5 five days a week? This has been a prominent talking point in the business world over recent weeks, with many forecasting a “new normal” where remote working becomes commonplace. Nic Redfern, finance director at, shares his insigts.

It seems likely that, having been forced to embrace it since the lockdown was introduced in late March, many organisations will now be more open to allow employees to work from home on a regular basis. In fact, some employees will demand it, having enjoyed the various benefits of remote working over the past three months.  

However, in one form or another, offices will soon re-open as social distancing measures are relaxed, with staff asked to begin working from their usual desks once again. This transition back into office working will not be easy, nor should it be taken lightly by business leaders across the UK. 

Here are three questions businesses must address before they return to the office. 


Can you keep your employees safe? 

Productivity, business continuity, serving clients – these are usually top of any business’ list of priorities. Now, though, they have been replaced by one core issue: the safety of their employees 

No business should be asking its staff to return to the office until the necessary steps have been taken to make the risk of anyone catching or spreading COVID-19 as low as possible. Indeed, the Government has released its safe working guidance to help employers through this process. 

Unless a business has a very spacious office, they will need to look at the layout of their desks, which will likely be too close together to align with health and safety guidelines. Furthermore, desks, chairs and storage units might need to be removed in order to make a space safe.  

Elsewhere, businesses should also consider investing in other equipment to protect employees. For example, they might need to install screens between desks, hand sanitiser pumps and clear demarcation on floors to help people keep their distance from one another.  

Employees will need clear instructions about the new health and safety protocols, which should include conduct in the office (handwashing, coughing and sneezing, and so forth) as well as staying home if they are presenting any signs of being unwell. Businesses must be diligent in conducting or arranging regular deep cleans of their offices. 


 Who should you bring back to the office and when? 

It is unlikely that businesses will suddenly invite their entire workforce back to the office at the same time and on a full-time basis. A staggered approach would make much more sense – having smaller groups of employees return on certain days, perhaps starting with just one or two days a week in the office.  

When only having smaller numbers in the office, it would be sensible to ensure particular teams  such as marketing, finance or sales – are all invited in at the same time, thereby maximising the value of them being back in the office. After all, the return to the office is primarily a way of increasing the ease of collaboration and allowing certain tasks to be completed more effectively than when all employees are working remotely.  

Over time, as the virus hopefully subsides and people adapt to the new normal, more people can be hosted on-site at any one time. Businesses can also address the balance between time spent remote working and time spent in the office, ensuring a happy medium is found.  


Are you listening to employees’ concerns? 

The return to office working will not be popular in some quarters. Many people have grown fond of working from home, free as they are from the hassle of commuting and office politics. Others will have serious health concerns about heading into more crowded spaces. 

Indeed, a recent survey of more than 2,000 UK adults commissioned by revealed that exactly half (50%) are anxious about social distancing measures being relaxed. Further anecdotal evidence certainly suggests that many people are non-plussed about the prospect of returning to the office.  

After months of largely avoiding public spaces – and certainly indoor spaces – the prospect of crowded buses, trains, streets and offices is understandably daunting. 

Businesses cannot simply tell their staff to come back to the office; they must speak to employees individually to assess their state of mind. Where possible, it would be prudent to be as flexible as possible in accommodating people’s requests for remote and flexible working; as this ought to boost employee satisfaction and retention.  

Whatever strategy is chosen, it will require careful thought. People’s safety is at risk, and there are very real anxieties about the prospect of offices re-opening. Businesses should think carefully about how they manage the transition back into the office; it might prove more difficult than they first think.   

Nic Redfern is Financial Director for Know Your Money. Know Your Money is an independent financial comparison website, launched in 2004. Run by a dedicated team, Know Your Money’s goal is to provide clear, accurate and transparent comparisons for a wide range of financial products, such as business loans, mortgages and car insurance.  


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