Following months of lockdown, the government is now keen for Britain’s workers to head back to the office. Businesses themselves, however, are exercising more caution – not just in a bid to keep their employees safe, but also effectively manage the transition away from home working, which has become the norm for millions of people across the country.

Business owners now have some decisions to make, not just on when to bring employees back, but how to do so safely and effectively.

For many, the first option will be a voluntary return to the office for those who want it. This way, the decision remains with employees, who are able to continue home working if they wish to continue as they are, whilst also opening up the offices for those who want a return to the ‘old normal’. This has the added benefit of acting as a trial run, with those returning to their usual place of work able to identify pinch points or potential areas of concern before everybody else returns in greater volumes.

If this approach proves successful it’s likely to be increased slowly, with certain people returning at set times. Those who use public transport may be among the first, followed by those who live with vulnerable people, then finally those within the vulnerable group themselves. Of course, this process will take many months at least, and many companies aren’t expecting to reach the final stage until 2021 at the earliest.

For some businesses, even those who want to return may not be allowed straight away. Instead, a more curated approach may be required, where departments that are most needed back in the office are allowed in first. So, IT teams or engineers may be among the first to return, with sales and marketing returning later.

One thing is for sure: business owners need to ensure they manage this process carefully and with great consideration. The companies that didn’t cover themselves in glory during the early stages of lockdown were named and shamed online – and this could well continue.

As Forrester analyst Andrew Hewitt told ZDNet: “If you mess this up now, it’s going to have long-term implications in terms of your ability to retract and retain talent. People tend to remember negative things, and they won’t forget. This will stick out as a pivotal moment for organizations.”