Heading back to the workplace will mark the end of lockdown for millions of workers across the globe. With the exception of protective equipment throughout the work environment, being back in the workplace will bring some normality back to life. While it’s a milestone moment in many workers’ lives, moving into the workplace will take a lot of transitioning to make sure it’s effective. Here are five things you should consider when transitioning back into the workplace after COVID-19.
1. Mental health
With the changes to normal procedures, the heightened levels of health and safety are bound to cause stress and anxiety for workers. It’s difficult to know whether what you’re doing is enough to stay safe and protected around others. It’s important to instil as much confidence as you can in the new health and safety procedures in your workplace. Signs, markings and instructional posters will ensure your team fully understands what procedures are in place and what they must do to stay safe.
If your team’s worries aren’t around the health and safety aspect of the workplace, it may be due to getting used to a new routine away from home. Having to commute to work again whether on public or personal transport will take some adjustments. Getting up earlier and arriving home later will impact the routines you’ve established over the last four months, particularly where young children and elderly relatives are involved. A phased and flexible return may help reduce these worries. Giving the option to come in two or three days a week will make sure you can put plans into place and get used to the new routine.
2. Physical wellbeing
Social distancing and hygiene measures demand behavioural changes for everyone. The need to stay two metres away from one another and wash your hands regularly has become habitual after four months in lockdown. With these procedures in place in your work environment, it shouldn’t be too much of a transition for workers to get used to. Something you should consider is using shared resources and areas like the bathrooms, kitchens, printers and canteens. Limiting numbers in these areas will ensure distancing can be maintained. Cleaning supplies around surfaces that lots of workers have touched will make sure everyone can clean things they’ve used.
While working from home, many workers won’t have had access to comfortable, ergonomic equipment like you do in the workplace. Returning means supportive chairs, desks and monitors can improve the physical wellbeing of workers throughout the day. A lot of your team members may be raring to get active again. If you have a gym facility in your workplace, which officially opens from 25th July in England, your team will be able to move more at work. Regardless of whether you attend the gym or not, the commute to work, lunchtime walks and walking around your building will make sure you’re moving regularly.
3. Financial circumstances
Depending on your organisation, your employees, or a selection of them, may have been furloughed at some point during the pandemic. Those that have been on furlough will have received 80% of their wage from the government to support their financial income. The employees that have been working full time will have received 100% pay from your business during the pandemic. When everyone returns to the workplace, there may be some negative feelings due to the inconsistency in personal financial circumstances.
Similarly, if bonuses and departmental budgets have been cut, this is likely to impact staff morale too. You should be mindful of the language you use when communicating any cuts that will impact your workforce’s productivity. It’s important to manage these concerns by speaking to your team members and ensuring everyone’s financial wellbeing will be supported. Offering financial support services to everyone will make sure they can access professionals who can help their situation.
4. Social engagement
As lockdown put an end to physical meetings between friends, family and colleagues, many businesses took to creating social experiences online to get through isolation. A lot of businesses have grown their company culture through video calls, hosting online quizzes, workout sessions and happy hours. As you transition from remote working back into the workplace, you should try to maintain the great company culture your business has developed.
Whether your business held social events before lockdown or not, initiating them post-pandemic is a great way to build relationships. Try having a happy hour in the office so everyone can chat about things other than work. Ordering breakfast or lunch on a Friday can get people engaging and interacting with one another where they might not have at home.
5. Productivity levels
Depending on the level of communication you’ve had with your staff, your team may be returning to work feeling productive or slightly unmotivated. Some of your workforce may have had a great time working from home if they’ve had the headspace to focus without distraction and work at optimal times. Others may have had a different experience. Those with demanding personal circumstances or those without the equipment to do their jobs effectively won’t have the same levels of productivity.
Ensuring your workforce is fully briefed on how the workplace will now look and operate is crucial for setting expectations. Regular communication about how your team can work optimally will be vital for the success of your business. Flexibility and a phased return will support here as well; making sure your workforce can establish what allows them to do their best work.
These are just five considerations you should take when transitioning from remote working back into the workplace. Focus on your workforce’s mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing as well as their productivity levels that may have been impacted by the pandemic. Giving your team members time to get used to the workplace once again will be crucial for a flexible and phased return approach. This will build staff morale, motivation and ensure your team feels happy and safe within the workplace.