Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many businesses have pivoted to remote work — while navigating the challenges that come with it. Employees are adapting to working from home, often while caring for their families and children. With many states beginning a phased reopening, employers need to start thinking about what their future workplace will look like and how to keep employees in the loop.

The new workplace

As businesses prepare to head back to the office, it’s critical that they review and adhere to the CDC Guidelines for Businesses and Employers. Returning to the workplace will be a delicate balance between renewed in-person collaboration and controlling the spread of COVID-19 cases.

When it comes to adjusting to a new normal, there are some simple steps you can take to support your employees and ensure everyone’s safety. When your employees return to the office or the workplace, proper sanitation and social distancing will be essential, along with wearing a mask, whenever possible. To help in this effort, you may consider taking employees’ temperatures before they enter the building and encouraging any employees exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms to stay home and self-quarantine.

You could also make social distancing easier for employees by clearly marking floors/desks to show six feet of distance and creating charts to share with employees in advance, so they know where they should and shouldn’t be. One-way traffic in aisles and rows is another strategy to consider — place arrows on the floor to show employees which direction they should be walking in to minimize contact.

Open workspaces have become quite popular over the years, but they are something that you may need to adjust during this time period. Consider rearranging workstations to be further apart and using plexiglass panels to create partial barriers between workstations. Reduce touch points whenever possible — you can even place “elbow door handles” on popular entrance and exit doors.

The new norm of working from home

While a slow and careful reopening of businesses is on the horizon, many of your employees may be concerned about returning to the workplace. They may not want to risk possible exposure to COVID-19 themselves, or they may live with or care for a person at high risk. Whatever their reasons, remember that this situation is unprecedented and try to remain empathetic and flexible.

Remember, just as you are navigating a new normal, so are your employees. Keep an open mind — transparency, frequent communication, and expectation-setting will be essential as employees decide to return to the office or continue to work remotely. It’s your responsibility to provide regular updates on what you’re doing to keep employees safe and provide clear guidelines for your employees to adhere to in both working environments.

You can also help to reduce anxiety among employees returning to the office by surveying them on their preferences and concerns and using this information to determine who should return to the office, and when it makes sense. Encourage a two-way dialogue (with online feedback forms or a dedicated email address) with employees so you can gather feedback on the transition back to the workplace and make adjustments as needed.

While these have been challenging times for the world, the COVID-19 pandemic won’t last forever. Employees will appreciate hearing from you regularly, knowing what’s expected of them, and having the ability to share their feedback, learnings, and concerns.