6 tips for organizations transitioning back to the workplace

July 13 · 06 min read

Transitioning back to workplace

COVID-19 has changed the way businesses work. We now know that in-office isn't the only effective way to work - alternate modes like remote and hybrid work are game changers. Now, over a year after the worldwide lockdown, organizations are slowly transitioning back to an office setup. Given the gravity of the situation, it's vital to have a plan for a seamless transition that keeps employees safe. Only this time, instead of merely bringing people back, we need to emphasize work-life balance and optimizing productivity.

1. Survey to get numbers

Do employees want to come back to work? People with pre-existing health conditions or dependents may be reluctant to return to public spaces. The fear of the virus isn't going away anytime soon, and employees expect flexibility. Survey your employees to see how many actually want to return to work. This will help you come up with a plan.

Zoho resumed operations at 10% capacity, giving priority to essential staff. Following this, we surveyed to get accurate numbers as more employees started showing interest in returning to work.

Return to work after COVID

2. Assess and create a plan

Assess your workspace to check if you're able to comply with local guidelines. Before reopening, Zoho consulted with the local health department regarding safety regulations. After a thorough inspection by a local authority, we made changes based on their suggestions, including spaced seating, entry protocol, routine sanitization, and personal protective equipment.

Who should come back first?

We chose to prioritize the network operations center (NOC) staff and sysadmins since the operation of our organization is heavily dependent on them. Following this, customer support and sales teams, and anyone else who needed the office space to work, were allowed back after receiving approval from their managers.

How can we protect them?

Employees are tested when they first visit the campus. Temperature scanning and masks are mandatory. We have an in-house doctor, as well as a 24/7 paramedic service on standby.

What happens if an employee tests positive?

If an employee tests positive, they're expected to be quarantined for two weeks. A contact tracing form helps us track the chain of transmission. Additionally, we made arrangements for accommodation in case an employee was unable to return home, but thankfully they haven't had to be used so far.

3. Coordinate with teams

A workplace reboot isn't just HR's responsibility—it requires collaboration among different departments to devise a cross-functional strategy. For example, our admin, maintenance, and safety-security teams were in charge of the proper implementation of safety protocols; the sysadmin team worked to ensure that all gadget-related issues were addressed promptly; and the HR team liaised with other departments to ensure timely COVID-19 updates as per the constantly evolving guidelines and other information pertaining to employees.

4. Have a unified console for tracking

Although most of our workforce was working remotely, we still had the daunting task of ensuring the safety of the employees who chose to work on-campus. Even at 10% capacity, it can be tricky if you don't have all the information you need in one place. In August 2020, Zoho launched BackToWork, a portal that focuses on the different aspects of workplace readiness. BackToWork helps collect employee data and track entry. It became an integral feature for maintaining an effective communication channel with both internal and external

Zoho BackToWork app

Initially, BackToWork was available free until December 31st, 2020, to enable businesses to safely transition back to the workplace. This was then further extended to March 31st, 2021.

Zoho remote work checkin portal

Self-evaluation is a great way to assess if an employee is fit to return to work. Our remote work check-in portal offers a daily health assessment. Employees can use the portal to report if they or someone in their family are experiencing symptoms. Healthcare doesn't end with physical well-being alone—we also offer free counseling services for our employees.

5. Keep following protocols

Zoho Corp's 2021 back to work plan


  • If you've attended a crowded event recently, work from home from at least seven days from the date of attending the event.
  • Symptomatic employees should work from home, get tested based on a doctor's advice, and come to the office after recovery.
  • Use of amenities is on a registration basis with limited slots per session and thorough sanitization by housekeeping staff in between hourly sessions.
  • Thermal scanning at all entry points is mandatory.
  • Use the open air dining spaces. If one space hits capacity, housekeeping staff will redirect employees to other vacant areas.

Specific to critical teams and shifts based teams:

  • Avoid crowded places, and if unavoidable, fill in the contact tracing form before coming to the office. This helps avoid spread at the pre-symptomatic stage.
  • If you're experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, inform your manager and work from home, get tested based on a doctor's advice, and come to the office after recovery.

Apart from these rules, we continue to emphasize the importance of social distancing, proper hygiene, and wearing a mask. Workspaces are sanitized regularly. We also ensure the cabs used by employees are never at full capacity. Our satellite offices, even with limited numbers, have measures like temperature scanning and adequately distanced workspaces. In June 2021, we organized a small vaccination drive for employees and their dependents.

6. Go hybrid

The workplace of tomorrow, or Workplace 2.0, is undeniably hybrid. Assess the roles in your firm to decide which positions require regular office trips, which can be carried out remotely, and which can be hybrid. Not only does this make it safer for employees during this transition phase, but it also expands your talent pool in the long run. At ManageEngine, we'll likely be continuing a hybrid setup for the foreseeable future. Zoho Corp is also considering allowing remote work indefinitely—and why not? Employees are just as productive when working remotely, if not more. Of course, a lot of our employees are quite eager to return to work. The warm, welcoming Zoho culture makes it hard to stay away!

Organizations need to move gradually, and with great care, to reshape their workplaces for the future effectively. While we'll miss working in PJs and spending more time with our families, getting back to work will provide a much-needed sense of normalcy in these difficult times.

About the author

Mahanya Vanidas, Content writer

Sign up for our newsletter to get more quality content

Get fresh content in your inbox

By clicking 'keep me in the loop', you agree to processing of personal data according to the Privacy Policy.