Have you returned to the office yet or are you still working from home? Maybe you work in HR or are a manager planning your company strategy to return to the office now that lockdown restrictions have been partially or fully lifted?
Whatever your position, the journey back to office working is a complicated one. Meeting safety requirements, avoiding miscommunications and managing people’s anxiety are just some of the challenges you will face.
Read on for five useful tips to help you plan the return to your office.
Give plenty of notice
Instead of telling your staff on Friday afternoon they need to get back to the office next Monday, it’s important to give your people at least a few weeks’ notice so they can process the change in their mind. Change is never easy, especially in these tough times.
Most people have been working from home for several months and may have concerns and even feel demotivated about returning to the office. Time to process the new strategy is essential for helping people change their perception of the return.
Listen to employees’ concerns
Instead of just telling your employees they need to return to the office, try to engage in two-way conversations with them. For example, you could ask “what are your thoughts about returning to the office next month?” as opposed to “I want you in the office next month!”
Some of your staff might be at higher risk from Covid-19 or live with vulnerable family members, so may have real concerns about returning to the office. Likewise, some staff might still have children at home and have childcare challenges to deal with. Clearly it is critical to reassure your staff that you are providing a safe working environment for them to return to and to try and understand the challenges they face.
There is no right or wrong in these challenging times. It’s important to be human and as much as possible be flexible. If you want your team member to return to the office, but they have good reasons not to and can still get their job done effectively, then why not let them continue to work from home. This is all part of providing a positive employee experience for your staff.
Communicate effectively and empathetically
If your whole team is working from home, think about which messages are best communicated by e-mail and which ones would be better said on a phone or video call. If the information is sensitive, it is often more professional and human to discuss it verbally. This seems like common sense, but many people still don’t do it!
Get impartial advice
If you need help and support about planning the return to your office, organisations in the UK such as ACAS can provide useful support and advice. ACAS gives employees and employers free, impartial advice on workplace rights, rules and best practice – go to www.acas.org.uk to learn more.
Another useful organisation to contact is the CIPD (The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development). They have a produced a useful COVID 19 returning to the workplace planner.
Clearly you should follow the most up-to-date government and public health guidance.
If you are not based in the UK follow your government’s advice and try to identify similar organisations in your country.
In conclusion, while planning your return to the office it’s critical to consider your employees’ feelings and emotions and give them plenty of notice, listen to their concerns, be flexible, communicate clearly but empathetically and of course follow official up-to-date advice from your government and other reliable sources.