As the coronavirus pandemic winds down in a number of areas, some of us are heading back to the office for the first time in many weeks. Simultaneously, we may have been advised to wear a face mask when using public transport or to avoid using public transport if possible.
For sure the journey to our workplaces—as well as the way we share office space—will be much different. While we are accustomed to an open-floor workspace, with some of us using hot desk (a system that involves multiple employees using a single workstation), it may come as a shock to see how the workspace arrangements have changed upon our return.
Compliance managers will have been liaising with human resources, building security, and other support functions responsible for managing security, staff welfare, and building logistics. Teams and departments will have been divided into different groups; shift patterns will have been developed; rotation programs will be put in place alongside social distancing procedures and travel plans. And, of course, we will not all be able to go into the office at the same time.
And just like with our home communities, we and our colleagues will be asked to comply with social distancing, continue to don face masks, and regularly perform thorough cleansing regimes. We need to lead by example: If compliance officers don’t comply, others will use this as justification for their own non-compliance. There will be one-way systems in the offices, and elevators may be restricted to single occupancy. These rules must be adhered to and, where necessary, enforced.
We must manage and confront those who flout the rules, determined to maintain their immunity to the virus and act as though nothing has changed in their world while rejecting new office social distancing controls.
Some may ask: “Is that a job for the compliance department?” Well, we are all in this together and, as such, we should look at not what compliance is necessarily responsible for, but rather how and where all employees can serve the wider compliance efforts.
Then there is staff socializing. How are you going to manage this within your own department? Do you have plans in place to apply a locate-and-trace process should a member of your staff become infected with the virus? Can you instruct staff when, where, and how to travel to and from work, including whom with, or more pointedly, whom not with? How will you manage the fine lines between appropriate working practices and staff safety against individual freedoms and privacy? Can you ask staff where they were during the weekend and who they were with?
All of these questions present increased demands upon workloads within a shrinking economy which will also likely see your teams and departments shrink. Once again, it will be necessary to apply the art of doing more with less. Working from home is now a norm which may stay with us forever. Remember that it is all about productivity, delivery, availability, and getting the job done. After a long period of working from home, we are now accustomed to remote supervision of staff, but the next phase is a different kind of supervision. It is a closer form of supervision than we have previously been asked to apply, and there are expectations that we will protect colleagues.
Consider the following airport analogy, which seems to best illustrate these heightened responsibility points. Airport customers and staff are accustomed to a closer, almost intrusive form of compliance—one they indeed desire, as it offers them protection. Thus, we will be part of just such a new compliance regime—one that is in place to protect staff, such that non-compliance should not be tolerated as it exposes staff to risk and may ultimately expose firms to significant litigation for failing to protect employees.
Everything has changed, pursuant to which our roles have changed. As the demands and expectations have changed, we need to ensure others comply with the changes to stay in compliance. Perhaps we can adapt some of the government mandates to, “Stay within the rules, protect colleagues, and save our firms.”
Please do share your innovative thinking and ideas helping you to manage the new world of workplace compliance.
Special report: Leadership in a time of unpredictable change
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Analysis: Why compliance culture must lead in return from coronavirus