Lessons From Australia

Max Shepherd-Cross
June 20, 2020

Australia has been out of lockdown for three weeks now and businesses are slowly welcoming their employees back to the office. Don’t repeat their mistakes.

Hybrid Working

When bringing your employees back to the office your key concern should be the safety of your employees. You need to ensure you have enough capacity for social distancing to be maintained at all times.

The majority of businesses have achieved this by adopting a “Hybrid Structure” where employees are spilt into groups and assigned office days. One employee might work from the office on Mondays, another on a Thursdays and work from home the remainder. This allows you to limit the number of employees in the office at any one time.

The number of people you can have in the office at one time will depend on the layout of your office and, in particular, your common areas. However, the majority of businesses are allowing 20–30% of their pre-COVID-19 workforce in the office at any one time.

This tactic has been effective, but has had considerable teething pains, here’s how you can do better:

1. Do not manage the scheduling process from a spreadsheet.

Once you have assigned which employee is working from the office on which day, you will undoubtedly need to move employees around to different days. These changes will be caused by employee’s personal commitments or a need to work alongside a team member assigned to a different day.

If you move one employee from Tuesday to Thursday, for example, you will breach your office capacity on Thursday. So you’ll have to move an employee from Thursday to Tuesday.

If you have to do this a few times, which you undoubtedly will, your spreadsheet will become a tangled web. You’ll have to spend hours a day managing it, and worse, you’re employees will get confused and turn up on the wrong day, which compromises everyone’s safety.

One business I’ve spoken to had to issue formal warnings to employees that repeatedly turned up on the wrong day. That’s not a route you want to go down. You need software to manage this process to keep your employees safe.

2. Ensure the right people are working with the right people

Initially, businesses just took their employee list and divided it by 5 and assigned the first 20% to work on Monday, the second 20% on Tuesday etc.

However, employees started ignoring their scheduled days as they wanted to meet with team members that were assigned to a different day. Again, this is very dangerous.

You need to think through who is working with who. For example, all your sales team should be working on the same day, all your marketing should be working on the same day. Or perhaps you work in project teams with members from different departments, in that case your project team members should all be working on the same day.

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Max Shepherd-Cross
Max is one of the cofounders and CEO of Officely.

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