While the transition to remote work was difficult for many, returning to the office provides its own set of challenges to navigate. Here, we explore some ways that employers can help their staff return to the office as confidently as possible.

Consult Your Workforce & Keep Communication Channels Open – even if anonymous.
Asking your staff directly when and how they want to return to the office is an excellent place to start. Employers will gain valuable information from an anonymous survey that allows employees to express their honest views and sentiments without fear of unwanted repercussions. Managers must allow employees to express whatever concerns they may have, and such concerns must be treated seriously. This information can then help you arrange rotas and office layouts.

Be Understanding – give ambivalence, be compassionate.
Understand each member of staff as a person – not just an employee. Make time for communicating with your whole team, and individuals on a one-on-one basis. Support employees that need to self-isolate, and be patient with staff that are still anxious about commuting on public transport. Consider staggered start times so they can avoid rush hour, or consider paying for a parking permit so they can travel in isolation.

Some people may not have met their colleagues – consider the new starters.

For some, starting a new job is daunting enough. Many people that lost their jobs due to the pandemic started new roles and have only communicated with their team via phone calls or zoom. Be patient and allow time for people to come out their shell and get acquainted the new normal.

Give Clarity – explain the “why”. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
Don’t promise your workspace is “100% COVID RESISTANT”, when, nowhere is. Build a strong foundation of trust between management and employees by making sure your staff understand how the workplace has been modified to make it safer, as well as any other procedural adjustments that have been implemented. This will assist in reducing employee stress levels prior to their return. Make it clear who needs to be at the office and for what reason.

Be flexible

Consider adopting a hybrid mode of working to ease employees back into an office setting. Scrap the formal dress code. Allow (well behaved) pets into the workplace. Allow employees to roll over unused holidays if they spent a lot of the year on furlough, and be considerate with holidays for things like weddings, as there will be many happening in a short space of time now normal service has resumed for many important events.

Take care of yourself too.
Help your team by leading by example with a healthy work-life balance, knowing when to switch off and encouraging self-care.

Invest in Employee Wellbeing

Employees’ physical and emotional health has been seriously impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. More than two-thirds of UK adults (69%) are concerned about the impact COVID-19 is having on their lives, according to the Office for National Statistics. As a result, it’s critical to invest in employee wellbeing, whether it’s a hotline to talk about worries, counselling, or individual calls to check in. Not only will this demonstrate your appreciation for your employees, but knowing that help is always hand will make returning to the office a lot less daunting.

Adhere to Coronavirus guidelines
The government’s guidance for Covid-safe workplaces are updated on a regular basis, so make sure someone is monitoring for revisions on a regular basis.
Testing is crucial, in addition to social distancing and good hygiene practices and enhanced cleaning schedules.

What will getting this right mean for your business, and more importantly, employees?

• Improved employee engagement through:
• Reduced anxiety,
• Feelings of “normality” and control
• Increased trust in managers and colleagues
• Improved job satisfaction
• A return to optimum productivity sooner
• An enhanced reputation amongst existing and potential employees
• Provides a model for future organisational change