As COVID-19 is now considered endemic in Australia, employees are returning to their offices in droves, picking up where they left off in 2020. However, the shift to a hybrid workforce has many staff still working from home at least some of the time. As such, the so-called new normal office looks different to how it did pre-pandemic, and organisations need to take steps to better manage their post-pandemic workforce.

The pandemic has undoubtedly changed how businesses operate, forcing them to reassess processes and modernise operations. To keep pace with the changing world of work, organisations need to identify how to best accommodate their fully or partly remote workforces, without incurring significant impacts on productivity, collaboration, employee engagement or even professional development and career progression.

Technology has been a cornerstone investment for many organisations throughout the pandemic. Businesses invested in software and hardware to enhance collaboration and enable staff to work from anywhere, regardless of their location. Data shows that the pandemic has accelerated digital adoption by four years and, in some cases, as much as 10 years.

The integration of new tools and technologies throughout the pandemic has helped businesses maintain efficiencies and productivity even as their geographic footprints expanded with workers moving further afield with their laptops to escape lockdowns and more densely populated areas.

Such technologies will remain business critical as employees now return to the office. However, there are other aspects that will need to adjust; business leaders must consider how best to staff their offices to ensure a safe and welcoming office environment.

There are three key considerations when it comes to managing the post-pandemic workforce:

1. Offer a hybrid, flexible working environment. Overcrowding in offices poses a risk to workplace health and safety. One of the most effective ways to protect staff is to promote a hybrid environment, combining office and remote work. Business leaders can manage the number of employees in the office, for example by establishing a workplace roster. Installing air purifying technologies can also be helpful to reduce the risk of contagions in the workplace and maintain employee health and safety onsite.

2. Ensure a safe and welcoming experience at the office for staff and visitors. Business leaders must consider how to best manage access to the office for their employees, visitors, and contractors within the new hybrid working environment. Organisations are increasingly turning to smart access management solutions to achieve greater levels of data accuracy, security, and safety when it comes to people’s movements on their premises. Implementing a digital solution lets organisations eliminate paper-based, manual sign-in processes and bridge the gap between office, hybrid, and remote working staff as well as visitors and contractors.

3. Communicate changes. Business leaders must maintain open and honest communication with their staff about the return to the office, including transparency about the why and the how. Leaders should share clear directives about which days to work in the office versus home and adjust practices with teams as needed.

The workplace is changing, and the future of work is hybrid. To prepare for the post-pandemic workforce, businesses must consider operational requirements, collaboration, communications, and employee engagement as well as ensuring they keep health and safety of staff and visitors to their offices front of mind.

Stephen Darracott is vice president and country manager for Pitney Bowes Japan, Australia and New Zealand.