Venturing back into the office – best practices and innovations for the ‘new normal’

First off – we acknowledge that there are significant differences across countries and regions in terms of readiness to re-occupy traditional office spaces. So, this discussion may be jumping the gun in some places, while in others the timing is very much appropriate.

In any case, pivoting to the ‘new normal’ as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves implies some sort of return to the office for many organizations, at least for some portion of the employees. At Atos, we see this next step as both a challenge and an opportunity. There is no playbook or blueprint for venturing back into the office during a global pandemic, so it is even more important to apply expertise, wisdom, and innovation to the situation to help ensure the best possible outcomes.

To that end, we spoke with Anne Picot-Périac, the Global Safety and Physical Security Officer at Atos to gain some insights into what Atos is doing to prepare and implement the first stages of the “return to the office”.

Anne, what are the key considerations and planning points that have guided our re-opening strategy?

“COVID-19 is still out there. Even if a lot of countries are relaxing their restrictive measures, we must stay vigilant by applying the precautions measures such as social distancing, PPE, washing hands, and staying home in case of symptoms. We can't get back to normal yet and must apply precautions to protect our colleagues. This includes sanitizing the office, ventilations systems, and frequency of cleaning hi-touch surfaces like doorknobs, handles, and buttons. A dedicated committee is set up at each site, in compliance with local government directions. Local medical consultation will be engaged, as well as the best designs for ensuring safe lunch or coffee breaks and ensuring social distances and flow of people. Personal Protective Equipment is also important, including enforcing masks, sanitizing gels and wipes, and deploying touchless electronic thermometers on site.”

“Based on distancing rules, each site will define the maximum residual capacity of the site for elevators, open spaces, workplace settings, meeting rooms, cafeterias and corridors, and walkways. In the end, HR and local management define the essential projects and eligible persons to attend at the office. Some employees are eager to return, while others have personal or health concerns. In some countries, public transport and schools have not reopened. It is essential to study the situations on a case-by-case basis, and that each site adapts this framework to its context.”

What differences are you seeing across regions that are influencing our office re-opening plans?

“Countries and governments have not all acted in the same way or on the same timetable. It must be said that the epidemic has not spread to all countries at the same rate. Our colleagues in Asia were the first to be affected, and we were able to benefit from their experience. When Europe started to relax the confinement, the outbreak started in South America and India. That is also why at the Global level we are making recommendations, trying to anticipate the needs from the different countries to support their teams. The local crisis management team helps customize and implement the best measures. We will adapt the plan, and the measures depend on the situation. There are also surveys at the local and global levels to see how we can improve. We must support our Atos clients in economic recovery while stopping the spread of the epidemic.”

What innovations are you seeing that help enable the initial stages of the ‘new normal’?

“Rapid decision making, agility, and flexibility are the hallmark of the new normal that we face. In that sense, there is no new normal, as we must be prepared to transition quickly between remote working, office working, and any combination thereof. Beyond the broad adoption of cloud-based team collaboration tools and technologies, we are encouraging a total rethink of the use of traditional office space – to serve a certain purpose rather than being just a destination to congregate.”

“And, to simplify the complex process of returning to the office, and with a focus on employee safety and peace-of-mind, the “Atos Safe Office” mobile app has been created. This application is designed to be simple, yet ensure individual compliance, manage office space bookings, communicate expectations, and provide emergency notifications.”

Thanks for sharing your experience and expertise Anne, I am sure our readers found your comments and suggestions very helpful and constructive.

Find out how we can help your distributed team

Atos has invested in many years of experience, innovation, and expertise in home working and distributed teams through its acquisition of Unify in 2016. Many of our own teams have been distributed or home-based for years and our own understanding of how virtual teams tick helps to shape the communication and collaboration solutions that we provide to customers. Let us know if you need help deploying team communications and collaboration.

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About Ross Sedgewick

Digital Workplace and Team Collaboration Expert
Ross joined Unify in 2002 and has fulfilled several expert marketing roles in technologies for the digital workplace, team collaboration / customer contact solutions, and virtual team engagement. He currently handles content creation, messaging and insight development relating to the digital workplace. Ross is passionate about humanizing the intersection of people and technology, and understanding how users engage and interact. Prior to joining Unify, Ross has held marketing, product, channel and sales leadership positions at IBM Corporation, Delano Technologies, and Siemens Enterprise Communications.