Getting your coworking space back to business includes many elements in the mix. In the first post of our Reopening Your Coworking Space series, we focused on safety and disinfection.

In the current article, we’ll shift our focus to the human element of it all – your team.

Bringing your team back to the office might be a tough task.

People can be anywhere on the scale of emotions about this – from excitement, to fear, to mixed feelings.

Your job here is to find the right approach and really understand the needs, preferences, and concerns of your team members.

After we’ve just adapted to working from home, returning to the office will be a big change every employee should go through. There might be resistance, fear, lack of understanding.

Or worse – you might miss essential steps and elements of the back-to-the-office process (here are the top 3 blunders to avoid) and frustrate your team.

It might also take time to feel comfortable with this change.

So the sooner you start planning the process and talking to your team, the better.

Here are some tips on how to do this efficiently.

1. Have an open dialogue with your team

One of the things that COVID-19 taught us is to embrace the human-centric approach. The coronavirus blurred the line between professional and personal. Our personal life was integrated into the professional and these two cannot be easily separated now.

And what I mean here is not that much the work-life balance. It’s more about putting a spotlight on our personal needs, caregiving responsibilities, family members, mental health concerns, fears, and preferences in the context of our daily work routine.

And now, they all take a major place in the conversation between an employer and an employee.

You really need to approach the conversation with the understanding that each member of your team has their own needs, preferences, and concerns.

And you should be open to hearing them.

2. Understand your team members’ needs

Some folks might desperately need to return to the coworking space, some might feel better at home, some might wish to work at the space but be concerned with the daily commute.

Others might not be able at all because of caregiving responsibilities.

There are plenty of scenarios and it’s your job to find out what’s the particular case. You might want to discuss various factors such as:

  • attitude – how do they feel about returning to the office; is their attitude positive or rather negative?
  • health concerns – are they or anyone in their household in the high-risk group?
  • productivity – do they feel productive at home; are there any tasks they wish to be doing at the office?
  • caretaking responsibilities – do they need to look after someone – kids, siblings, etc?
  • willingness to return – do they feel ready to return; if not, do they feel like they might feel ready at a later stage?
  • commute – how long does it take them to come to the office; do they use public/shared transportation, etc?
  • preferences – what are their personal preferences; how many days do they want to spend at the office; what kind of schedule would they prefer?

These will give you a better understanding of the needs, preferences, and concerns of each employee. For instance, people might be willing to return to the space but might not be able because of caregiving responsibilities.

It will also help you understand what their risk exposure would be in case they start coming back to the office. For example, people who use a personal vehicle to come to the office are much less exposed to risk than those who use public transportation.

3. Communicate the safety measures

“Communication is key” totally applies here. No matter how good and strict your safety measures are, if you’re not communicating them, you’ll face difficulties convincing your team it’s safe to return to the office.

Use various channels for that – send them an email, speak to them personally, create some kind of handbook or guide for them.

Talk to your team about any possible concerns, questions, or suggestions they might have. Don’t forget to keep them posted about updates.

Regular and transparent communication will be your best friend in this situation.

4. Create your schedule the smart way

Depending on the size of your team and your space, you might need to ask your team to come to the coworking space on shifts. Based on your country’s governmental regulations, you have to figure out what’s the maximum safe capacity for the dimensions of your space.

On top of the capacity, consider effectiveness, too. Think about the different roles and teams and who needs to collaborate with whom more often. Also, what are the essential people your space cannot run without them being onsite? Most probably, you don’t need your marketing folks that much in the space as your community managers.

Combine these insights with your team members’ needs, preferences, concerns, and you will be able to configure the schedule that serves both your business and your team.

5. Be flexible and ready to adjust if needed

Even if your team is ready to go back to the office, your new processes and schedule should not be set in stone. Regularly check in with your team and ask them if they are still okay with the schedule and the way they work.

They might have realized they feel more anxious at the coworking space than expected. Or that they would feel better if they come more often to the office.

It’s an ongoing process that you should be constantly monitoring and updating if needed.

If you’re looking for more tips on the topic, check out our Reopening library. There, you will find various resources that we hope will help you during the reopening journey.

Michaela Ivanova
Content Marketing Manager at OfficeRnD
Michaela got involved in the flexible workspace industry in 2015 when she joined a boutique coworking space as a Community & Marketing Manager. Later on, she moved to the technology industry but she continued working from shared spaces. Her passion for coworking and her experience in the technology sector eventually led her to join OfficeRnD, the world's leading coworking management software, where she's dedicated to creating content that empowers workspace operators to scale their business.