Thanks to vaccine rollouts and relaxed government guidelines, businesses are remaining hopeful that they can soon throw open their doors, let their staff return to work and get things running how they used to be. But it’s not quite that simple.
For many employees, the transition from home to office again is daunting. Whether it be safety concerns or not wanting to break new habits, some team members won’t be as enthusiastic to get back to the office as their employers.
If your business is preparing for an office return in 2022, we’ve listed seven steps you can take to ease the transition.
1. Be transparent
The most important thing to remember during uncertain times is to always be transparent with your employees. By ensuring there’s always a clear line of honest communication, you prevent surprises, like sudden returns to the office.
Your team may no longer be used to working in a shared space, so make it as easy as possible to help them adjust. Ensure all employees are fully aware of any new safety measures that didn’t previously exist in your workplace, and most importantly, give as much notice as possible for return-to-work dates to allow them plenty of time to adjust.
2. Give them time to adjust
Not all employees will jump to the chance of returning to the office and socialising once again. Whether it’s home comforts and daily rituals that they’re not ready to give up or more serious things such as coordinating childcare, your staff will need appropriate time to properly prepare before returning to the office.
Managing expectations is key here; your business needs to operate as efficiently as possible, but you also want to ensure your employees are ready to return to the office. You survived the abrupt adaptation to working from home during lockdown, so providing some breathing room will help create a smoother transition and make the move easier for all.
3. Listen to your staff
The challenges won’t disappear as soon as you and your team are back in the office. Not everyone will feel the same way about returning to work, so it’s important to make sure you don’t overlook their well-being. Book in regular check ups, even informal ones, with team members to get an off-the-record insight into how they’re feeling now they’re back in the office.
Conducting internal surveys will also let you look at the situation on a wider scale and see how the majority of your employees are feeling. Make sure to act on the information you glean - for example, if most of your staff are unhappy to be back in the office, it’s a good idea to reevaluate your in-office plan. Switching to a single mandatory office day a week at first until your employees feel more settled could be a great approach.
4. Be flexible
Even the best-laid plans can go awry. We’ve already seen how quickly things can change. COVID-19 has been anything but predictable and is very capable of disrupting businesses at any time.
It is important that your organisation has considered its pandemic preparedness measures and has developed effective crisis and resilience solutions for any potential impact of COVID-19.
From changes in government advice to travel bans and local coronavirus outbreaks, interferences to the norm are likely (as of December 2021). You must ensure you stay updated on COVID-19 developments that may impact your workforce.
The good news is, now that you’ve experienced a work-from-home order, you know what your business struggled with previously and can ensure you’re better equipped in the future — whether it’s keeping motivation levels high or ensuring communication remains consistent across the business.
By ensuring your business is equipped to deal with whatever is lurking around the corner, you’ll be able to react to any new government legislation and changing employee needs alike.
5. Consider a hybrid model
Creating a safe and productive working environment for your employees is crucial and implementing a hybrid-work policy can ensure that you’re taking your staff’s best interests into account. Combining work-from-home with an office presence helps workers to get the best of both worlds.
It’s important to understand that there are different variations of hybrid-working models: remote-first working, office-occasional and office-first options. Whether it’s a fully flexible system or something a little more rigid, it’s up to you to find the right balance which suits your business and its employees.
6. Implement clear safety protocols
Employers have a duty of care to their employees, meaning any workplace needs to be suitably safe and hygienic before your staff return to the premises. Everyone should have easy access to hand sanitiser at all times and antibacterial wipes to clean their workspace before and after use.
Although it is currently not mandatory, it’s also a good idea to implement social distancing in the office wherever possible. This includes spacing out seating arrangements on shared desks or limiting the use of shared spaces such as meeting rooms. Not only will this prioritise the health of your employees, but it will help them feel more at ease working in close proximity to coworkers again.
Asking employees to do a lateral flow or PCR test if they feel even slightly unwell or come into contact with anybody who has had COVID-19 will help to protect your workplace from encountering an outbreak.
7. Manage their travel arrangements
For many people, working from home has made their working life simpler and less stressful. Travelling to work again will, therefore, cause disruptions to their new work-life balance and be one of the major roadblocks of readjusting to office life.
As an employer, you have the power to help ease your team back into the routine of commuting by helping to manage their travel arrangements. Services such as Employee Transport Management allow you to book, manage and track transportation for your staff. Many businesses are being responsive to their staff’s needs, recognising that some people aren't comfortable yet taking public transportation. As a result, employers are implementing managed taxi services: an all-in-one ground transportation solution that guarantees safe and seamless commuting for employees — avoiding the hustle and bustle of the daily rush hour.
For more ways to simplify your travel and ground transportation needs, see our full list of solutions available at CMAC.