When the pandemic first began, the UK experienced a huge shift from office work to remote work, with 46.6 per cent of the workforce working from home by April 2020. As businesses start to reopen, employers need to consider how to manage a successful transition back into the office.
For many employees returning after a long period of remote work it may require a shift in mindset. While some employees may be eager to return to work, others may have mixed emotions. With that in mind, how can organisations navigate the return to the office?
Clear communication is vital for a successful return to the office. Involve staff in the return to work from the beginning instead of springing it on them last minute. Communicate your reasoning for your plans, explain new protocols and listen to staff feedback.
Take time to check in with your team. Ask employees to share their feelings and address any concerns. If you are implementing a staggered return, those employees who are already back in the office can help alleviate any worries more nervous workers may have.
Even after the team has returned, keep up communication by operating an open-door policy and frequently checking in with your employees.
Everyone’s situation is different. Some employees may have loved working from home, while some may have had to balance it with significant caring duties, and others may have found it isolating and lonely. Leaders need to understand the variety of experiences and act accordingly. Compassion and empathy should be at the forefront of the return to the office.
Create new habits
40 per cent of employees admit to feeling nervous about the risk of infection when interacting with co-workers. Help ease employees’ concerns by introducing new protocols for keeping safe in the office. Limit the number of people in a room and stagger work schedules so not all employees are clocking in and out at the same time. Practices such as sanitation stations, frequent deep cleaning and changes to the workplace layout will help keep everybody safe.
Give employees the opportunity to manage their own return to work. Employers should be willing to accommodate if some staff need to work from home for longer or be more flexible. Flexibility will help alleviate any concerns nervous employees may have and reduce the potential for employees to feel pushed.
Have a detailed return to work plan
A detailed return to work plan will help communicate new guidelines and shows employees’ safety is priority. Depending on the size of your organisation, a partial return may be a good idea. Introducing individual departments back into the office one by one will make the transition seem less abrupt. Allowing for an adjustment period will allow employee and employer time to adapt to the new way of working.