After many months of restrictions, and work-from-home requirements, it’s time for businesses to start planning for staff to return to the office.
However, it may not be so straightforward. There are many challenges ahead and questions that need to be asked.
How many staff should return? How will employees cope when working in a different office environment? What office safety protocols should you implement?
To make the transition smoother, here are 5 tips for developing a return-to-work plan.
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1. Take It Step By Step
Moving your employees back to the office in one fell swoop may be too overwhelming for you and them. Let’s face it, office life won’t exactly be the same as before. At least, not immediately.
Allowing a percentage of your workforce to return to the office first will give you the chance to assess how well your staff is integrating with the new policies.
You should consider operating a weekly rotation system that enables some staff members to work from home and others to work within the office. Even by applying daily flexible office working hours, you can ensure every employee is gradually re-introduced to the office environment.
2. Communication Is Key
To avoid a turbulent transition, effective communication with your staff will help them to feel reassured that it’s safe to move back into the office.
Go beyond just providing written guidelines, work schedules, policies, and protocols. Engage with every single employee verbally and through in-office digital signage to ensure they have a clear understanding of the new policies and what you expect from them.
Ensure that every employee is heard equally. Create a dedicated support network, either through a dedicated email address, a chat messaging service, or a phone number where staff can reach out to you. Questions are bound to be asked, so be ready and allow your staff to communicate their concerns, suggestions, and feedback.
Additionally, you’ll want to leverage the power of online tools like video conferencing and screen-sharing software to keep your office workers connected with those who are still working from home.
A little goes a long way, and this can help ease anxieties about returning to work.
3. Implement Cleaning Policies
Drawing up cleaning protocols can take a lot of thought and planning, and will vary depending on the size and type of business you own.
Simple measures, such as not sharing office equipment (phones, pens, and other office supplies) and sanitizing shared equipment, such as computer desks and keyboards, can be implemented.
Also, plan how many people should occupy each room and provide hand sanitizers at door entrances to encourage better hygiene practices.
Some businesses may feel more comfortable with plexiglass screen protectors surrounding office desks, especially if colleagues are likely to sit there for long periods of time. Reception desks are another key area that could benefit from protective screens.
Cleaning regimes can even be drawn up where colleagues take responsibility to clean their desks before and after use.
4. Create A Positive Atmosphere
Maintaining a hygienic environment is one thing, but creating a positive, optimistic, and uplifting atmosphere can be even more challenging. Everyone’s mood is bound to be impacted after many months of restrictions and work-from-home orders.
Focus on building more social interactions amongst colleagues. This can be as simple as creating an online social group (via WhatsApp or Facebook) where they can share their interests, stories, photos, and videos with each other. This can help staff relax, build healthy relationships, and become more productive in their work.
5. Continually Update and Review HR Policies
You’ll need to ensure you’re sticking to state guidelines and regulations and they are subject to change at short notice.
Policies need to be drawn up in regard to staff who are required to isolate. Is it possible for them to continue working from home? And can you provide adequate financial support if they need time off?
For example, the FFCRA (Family First Coronavirus Response Act) requires some employers to allow their staff paid time off in the event they become ill, or if they need to care for a sick family member.
Ultimately, now is the time to take the necessary steps to prepare and develop your return to work plan. By taking into account the above steps, you can have confidence that you’ll make employees feel safe and reassured that returning to the office is the right move.
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