For the past few months, business leaders have worked swiftly to navigate the shifting work landscape. Many employees switched up their daily commute to the office for a much shorter commute to their kitchen tables. Now, as regions around the globe begin reopening and relaxing stay-at-home orders, organizations are contemplating and rethinking their strategies for returning to the physical office. As we look to empower employees and provide an excellent digital employee experience for a future-ready workforce, what complexities should leaders take into consideration when proactively planning a safe return to the office?

Plan with Cross-Functional Stakeholders

Taking a multidisciplinary, coordinated approach across the C-level with IT, HR, Legal, and Operations stakeholders at the table is crucial for a smooth transition back to the office.

For IT, there’s a lot to consider, from reconnecting devices and equipment to conducting security reviews. It’s important that businesses prioritize productivity, flexibility and security during business continuity planning to ensure that employees can be up and running in their new environment as quickly as possible. This same attention to detail should be maintained when shifting back to the office.

Employing the help of a digital workspace solution to manage endpoints can help smooth the transition back to the office. Even before the work-from-home revolution, IT specialists dealt with the burden of supporting a plethora of different devices. This challenge was further amplified when devices were taken off of the corporate network as employees settled into their home offices. A unified endpoint management platform like VMware Workspace ONE delivers pure simplification for IT by bringing together different management tools for ease of use. IT can easily own the lifecycle of all devices in the workplace on a single platform regardless of device location. Additionally, IT must prioritize device security. A Zero Trust model for security can help with this. Zero Trust security ensures that devices, users and apps are continuously verified before granting access, offering greater flexibility as employees make their way from the home office to the corporate office.

Rethink the Workspace of the Future

Employees left their tight-knit cubicles back at the office in March, and it’s likely that they won’t be working in close quarters with their coworkers for quite some time. However, a recent CNBC study surveying executives at firms across sectors of the economy found that many large corporations expect to return more than half of their employees back to offices as soon as September. In order to promote social distancing within the workplace, business leaders will need to ensure that distancing measures are instilled throughout the office so there is a greater level of comfort among employees. Many of these efforts with are manual and time-intensive, so it’s imperative that business leaders across all departments will need to collaborate on how these necessary actions will lead to new ways of working.

Here are five considerations that should be on your return-to-office checklist.

1. Keep Health and Safety Measures Top-of-Mind

As the logistics of the pandemic continue to develop daily, it’s important that business leaders across all departments keep health and safety measures top-of-mind at all times. This includes the continuous deep cleaning and sanitation of all surfaces, adhering to the changing government mandates that vary widely by location, employing the help of contact tracing solutions and thermal detection, stocking up on PPE inventory and daily health check surveys. 

2. Build Physical Distancing

These measures can include occupancy limitations in large spaces like breakrooms and conference rooms, meeting and desk reorganization, staggering schedules so fewer people are in the office at once and making visitor regulations.

3. Define Compliance Guidelines

A key area that employers must ensure that they are clearly communicating to their returning staff are new health and safety guidelines. Safety and health programs can substantially reduce risks and costs to employers. Businesses should seek out the help of compliance assistance specialists and resources such as OSHA.

4. Prepare for New Ways of Working

It’s likely that many employees have grown accustomed to their work-from-home environment by now. And while some might be itching to get back into the corporate office, others might prefer to continue working from home. Business leaders should ensure their infrastructure is prepared to support an increased number of employees and new hires working remote-first or partially remote long-term. Providing digital-distance flexibility to employees will empower your workforce, facilitating a greater employee experience and productivity.

5. Prioritize Communication with Employees

Business leaders understand that employees have likely experienced a lot of changes in the past few months, both in their work lives and their personal lives. As employees continue to cope with the changing tides, employers can help to provide at least one constant – open, transparent communication with their staff. Beyond the expected communication around return dates and office safety protocols, remind employees to return borrowed technology and save all work on the corporate network. A digital workspace solution like VMware Workspace ONE can help with this by consolidating management siloes across devices and providing secure, password-free SSO. This solution acts as a hub where employees can save and access work from any device, anytime, anywhere. This can save both staff and IT the headache of losing valuable work during the transition and greatly reduce the time needed to get back up and running in the corporate office.

Future Ready with Workspace ONE

There are many solutions on the market today and the technology solutions space is rapidly evolving to provide value to employees and organizations in our new ever-changing reality. The key to a successful future-ready strategy hinges on both carefully evaluating new technologies and leveraging existing infrastructure where possible.

At VMware, we know that customers need agile, flexible and scalable solutions to enable employees and keep workforces connected and informed across devices. Employing the help of a digital workspace solution like VMware Workspace ONE can assist in workplace collaboration, communication and security as employees gradually return to work. To support the safe return to office needs of customers, VMware is thrilled to announce new workplace solutions for the Future Ready Workforce. Powered by the Workspace ONE platform, these workplace solutions include two new privacy-centric mobile applications: Workspace ONE Proximity* and Workspace ONE Campus*, designed to help customers bring employees back to the office and enable office experiences of the future. But most importantly, a safe, successful return to work isn’t just at the hands of one business leader or department – it’s the responsibility of everyone, including IT, physical security, crisis management, healthcare advisors, legal, HR and operations. Constant collaboration will help to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible your workforce is future-ready.

For more information on how end user computing affects work today and in the future, read the first blog in our Future of Work Series, Why a Focus on End User Computing is Important Today and for the Future.

* Disclaimer: Beta program is open to select customers. Note that there is no commitment or obligation that a beta feature will become generally available