How to bring employees back into the office after the pandemic?
Over the past year and months, many employees have been working remotely. As covid restrictions have been lifted and employees are no longer required to work from home, employers have started to reintroduce in-office work. While some companies have switched to permanent remote working, some simply cannot keep their employees working remotely for understandable reasons. Some businesses rely on manual labour or employees that require special devices or tools for their work that is not available for them at home.
Although some employees may feel ready to come back to the office, some are not. So how can you help bring back your employees and ensure safety at the office post-pandemic? This process will require careful and good planning.
If you, as an employer, are struggling to bring back your employees, you may be doing something wrong or missing a few steps. In this article, we look at simple steps you should take that could help you bring back your employees to the office.
1. Reach out to your employees
The initial step of bringing back your employees should be reaching out to them and letting them know that you are planning on returning to the office. It is essential to get their point of view of this approach, and you will most likely get a mix of reactions. Get a rough estimate of how many of your employees want to come back and who doesn't. Note down their concerns and needs, and assure them that as their employer you will provide a safe workplace.
💡Consider Hybrid working.
2. Government guidelines on workplace safety
Before bringing back your employees into the office, make sure to go through the Government's guidelines and rules for workplace safety during Covid-19. Workplace safety is probably the #1 concern for employees and most likely their main reason for questioning if they should come back into the office or not. Therefore, ensure that proper social distancing and hygiene rules are introduced in your workplace. You can make simple adjustments to ensure that your team members are social distancing, such as separating your employees' tables, having a clear panel between each table, and ensuring that hand sanitiser or antibacterial wipes/sprays are always available. Remind your employees of proper hygiene. You could even get a health and safety inspector to come in and help you have all the necessary things to keep your workplace safe.
While this may be a controversial topic to some, it is something important. The Covid-19 vaccination roll-out in the UK is going strong; however, some people are uncertain of getting the vaccine for personal reasons. Whilst it is not mandatory for employees to be vaccinated, employers should encourage employees to get vaccinated and inform them of the benefits.
If, for instance, you are thinking of introducing a mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy, keep in mind that this may appear discriminative and could lead to employee turnover.
💡Find more information on Covid-19 guidelines for employers on the Government website and CIPD.
3. Bringing back your employees
When you bring back your employees, try not to bring them all back at once but instead have small teams come in, and you could consider bringing employees in only for a few days per week. Your office layout will likely look different if you have social distancing measures in place, so it will take time for your employees to adjust. Also, you may have new employees who have never been in the office, and if that is the case, have a buddy show them around.
4. Ensure employee engagement
This is what your employees may find difficult to adjust. During the lockdown, employees mainly socialised with their families or friends with no in-person contact with their fellow colleagues for nearly a year or more. Your employees might find it challenging to interact with their colleagues at first; therefore, it is essential to help them break that barrier and maybe try to come up with different socialising activities. They could be simple things like belated in-office celebrations or after work gatherings.
The points mentioned in this article are the initial steps we believe you should take to help you and your employees return to the office to go smoothly and maybe help you return to a "normal" work life.
Remember that the pandemic had an impact on everyone's physical and mental well-being, and it will take time for everyone to adjust. But be patient and considerate of your employees, and help them adapt to this new environment.
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