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It’s Been 16 Months: Time to Return to Work?

Following weeks/months of employees’ working remotely in response to COVID-19,  Spectrum Health and Human Services and most other companies in Western New York are facing a new challenge; how and when to return to the office safely?

Despite uncertainties and significant logistical concerns, a post-COVID-19 workplace is inevitable, even as we work to adapt facilities based on evolving guidelines from public health institutions.

To successfully transition into this next phase of work, we have considered our current strategies: being flexible and keeping employee safety and well-being our top priorities. Additionally, a large percentage of our employees continue to work remotely and expectations are that teams increasingly will be composed of both in-office and remote employees.  We will need to bolster collaboration tools and techniques so employees can continue to work together effectively, regardless of location. No one solution may work in every situation: a reintroduction to office life without a well-thought-out plan can be risky if not implemented correctly.

Some companies (locally and nationally) may remain fully remote, while others will return the entire staff to the office. The vast majority of companies will be somewhere in between those two extremes. Most recent predictions from the Workforce Analysis Group, Inc., Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Forbes suggests 30–40% of U.S. employees will work from home multiple days per week thru the end of 2021 and quite possibly beyond. That infers the majority of companies will be using a ‘hybrid work model’ that is made up of both remote and in-office workers and gives employees the ability to choose how, where and when they perform their job duties.

This often includes office spaces designed around flexible work arrangements where employees come and go from the office based on preference and as project work dictates.

The majority of larger companies see the hybrid model as a sign of the future, formally announcing new policies designed to embrace a hybrid work model that gives employees the option to voluntarily return to the office or continue to work remotely for an indefinite period.  Ultimately, returning to work after COVID-19 will look different for every company.

Companies planning to transition their employees back into the office need a plan that maintains safety, maintains morale, and keeps employees’ comfort and well-being in mind.

The post-pandemic return to work has turned out to be a much lengthier and more complicated process than many expected, with resurgences of the coronavirus forcing some governments worldwide to reinstitute lockdowns and safety requirements over the past months.

Spectrum Health’s leadership has demonstrated care and concern for our employees’ well-being; we provide all team members with the sense of confidence that they are being well taken care of, and to address any potential anxiety about returning to work.

By Mark Hendrickson

Sr. Vice President of Human Resources

Mark will join Spectrum Health Associate CEO Cindy Voelker to present “The Successful Employee Re-Entry Plan: How to Increase Engagement, Recruitment, and Retention,” on Tuesday, July 13, 8:30am. This virtual event is part of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s Speakers Series. Find details and register here:

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