Returning to the Office - Considerations for Your Team
As holidays fade and the year starts to swing into gear, our working way of life edges towards a new 'covid-normal', many leaders are in the midst of ensuring staff are transitioned back into the office in a productive and positive way.
On one hand, some staff can’t wait to get back into the social environment of an office space, and on the other, some have a taste of working from home and love the autonomy and security of their own personal space. Whilst most organisations are exploring a hybrid approach to working remotely and in an office, many businesses have to return to a pre-covid working office arrangement.
For businesses who are returning back to their HQ, this transition, like most change, may be hard to handle for your teams.
The return back into the office and the '9-5' grind can be seen as both a positive and a challenge for different members of your team depending on their life circumstances, and it is important to remember that not everyone will embrace the return to the old way of working.
It is important that you approach this return in a strategic and considered way, so morale remains high and staff feel engaged and supported throughout the process. We all know the importance of culture, particularly during these challenging times, so we have pulled together some recommendations that may be of use in helping your team feel supported and positive about the year ahead.
1. Demonstrate a Plan
With a clear plan in place, those who are uncomfortable returning to the office will see their safety is a priority and will give staff what to expect. A plan will also help a step-by-step transition into the office, rather than an overwhelming rush back to normal. Staff need to know the rules that will be in place and the protocol needing to be followed. We suggest starting employees off by coming in 2-3 days a week, on an alternating roster, to allow a slow transition.
Communication is an obvious one. We encourage frequent and clear communication about protocols across multiple channels. As a leader, let your employees know any information as early as possible. Encourage discussions around the transition and allow staff feedback and inputs. Check in with your team in a formal and informal manner - make sure your team knows you are listening and acting on their feedback.
3. Understand the Individual
Each individual employee will have different circumstances and different challenges to returning to the office. It is your role as a leader to ask and understand these differences and allow trust and leeway to challenging circumstances. You can’t have a cookie-cutter approach. Remember every individual reacts to change and challenge differently. Be ready to listen and ensure you are able to flex your style according to the employees emotional needs.
4. Healthy Habits
Many employees are still feeling nervous about their risk of infection and social distancing. It is vital to create healthy habits around the office and constant reminders of protocols. Encourage sanitisation and disinfecting objects, restrict the number of people in a room at a time, and support employees who feel sick to stay at home. Encourage a positive space where people take responsibility for their health and wellbeing. Avoid a blame culture or finger pointing. People want to feel safe and respected in their workspace.
5. EAP Support
Ensure your teams feel supported both physically and mentally. Do you have an EAP Provider in place? It is important that employees have the opportunity to reach out for confidential coaching or counselling if they are finding the transition challenging.
We have shared these steps to help you create a smooth transition for you and your staff members back into the office. However, undoubtedly there will be unique changes for each workplace. If you feel you or your staff members need support in this transition, or you would like to explore an EAP Program, reach out to ICP Incorporate Psychology at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website to learn more: www.incorporatepsychology.com.au