In the past year, both employers and employees had to adjust to the new normal brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Video conferences, emails, chat tools, file sharing- these had quickly become the norm to keep businesses running despite geographical distances. Some employees enjoyed the benefits of remote working, such as not having to stress about the commute, saving money, working from anywhere you want, and spending more time with loved ones, among other things.
For others, however, working remotely was less than enjoyable. Burnout, connectivity problems, social isolation, and higher chances of distraction are some disadvantages of employees working from home.
Now that vaccines are rolling in, more employers are looking into the possibilities of bringing employees back to the office. And while it seems like the days of working from home are numbered, employees may not be ready to go back to a pre-COVID-19 workplace, staying in enclosed spaces likely less than 6 feet away from all their co-workers.
With this in mind, it’s up to employers and managers to deal with the challenge of asking their employees to come back to work, and if you aren’t sure about how to go about it, here’s what you can do as an employer or manager to understand and prepare for the transition back into on-site work.
Draft Your Safety Plan
Your main priority as a business leader needs to be the safety of the entire workforce, yourself included. At a time when health is everyone’s main concern, you need to make sure that your employees feel safe, secure, and taken care of in the physical, mental, and financial sense. This includes being transparent with your team by letting them know of your plans to transition back to on-site work.
You have to be clear about what safety measures you’re going to implement to ensure the safety and security of your employees, whether it’s adding a list of health guidelines that employees need to follow or even renovating the space or building to allow for better social distancing practices.
For instance, it may help employees feel more comfortable knowing what changes are taking place in the workplace regarding renovation, such as adding a new room or adding partitions using studs or tracks to do so. You may also consider adding safety measures that start outside the office, such as regular health and temperature checks, distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees that they can use at the office, and implementing regular cleaning and sanitizing procedures help prevent the spread of the virus.
Once you have drafted your safety plan and shared it with your employees, the next step is communicating what to expect on a regular workday with your team and allow them to share their questions and concerns with you regarding your safety plan.
Communicate with Your Team
Employees are the lifeblood of a business. Without them, your business won’t function as it should. In these uncertain times, it’s important to show compassion towards your employees as everyone is going through their own struggles. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic starting to wane, we can’t expect things to go back to the way things were before the pandemic.
In addition to that, people’s priorities have changed, which is why it’s important to involve your team in the decision-making process when transitioning into an on-site work setup. With so many changes in the workplace in the past year, employees may have some concerns about the working conditions once they go back to the office.
Provide Solutions for Employee Concerns
Don’t expect employees to be up and ready to go back to the office as soon as you send a notice. It’s important to communicate the benefits of returning to the office and provide solutions to any concerns that employees may have. Talk to your employees as a group to discuss any general concerns before meeting with them one-on-one to assess any personal concerns or struggles. This will help you establish any significant effects that on-site work could have on your employees and their families. By doing this, you can adjust accordingly and support your employees’ needs.
A few ways you can support your employees in these difficult times include providing childcare assistance for employees with children, implementing strict health guidelines both in and out of the office, subsidizing online health visits with medical professionals that can help employees improve or enhance their mental health, and implementing shifting schedules, among other things.
No matter what industry your business is a part of, the transition from remote to on-site work will be both difficult and stressful. Not only will employees be reluctant to do so to protect their health, but employers will have to work overtime to create a safe and secure environment to show that they’re taking everyone’s health seriously. Nothing about this transition will be easy, nor will it go as smoothly as you want it to, but investing the time to plan and choosing to put people first will get you employees who will want to stay with your company for the long run.