The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to businesses around the world. Most businesses were forced to close and those that were able to, adopted remote working overnight. This transition was difficult and it took a lot for businesses and employees to adjust. The long term economic impact of the pandemic will no doubt make things very difficult for businesses, but many companies are starting to get things back to normal in whatever way they can. For some companies, this means moving employees back into the office. If you are planning to bring employees back into your office, it is important that you do it in the right way.
You need to remember that your employees have had their lives turned upside down as well. Many of them may have been directly affected by the pandemic and may have lost loved ones. There is also a lot of anxiety about going back to work because people worry about whether it will be safe and whether they risk contracting the virus. That’s why you, as an employer, need to make sure that you create a safe environment that protects your employees’ physical and mental health. You also need to take steps to help people adjust to the new normal so your business can start to recover. These are some of the most important things to keep in mind if you want to make the transition back to work easier for your employees in the wake of COVID-19.
Communication Is Key
Communication is so important right now because everything is up in the air and your employees are probably quite concerned about how they are going to safely return to work. It is important that you communicate with them regularly in the lead up to them returning to the office so you can tell them about all of the safety measures that you are putting in place. You also need to communicate your expectations in terms of when people will return to work and how many hours they will be doing etc. As long as you keep people in the loop, they will feel a lot more positive about their return to work.
Don’t Just Focus On Safety
Obviously, you need to take steps to make sure that all of your employees can socially distance from one another and remain safe while working in the office. However, don’t just focus on safety because you also need to think about ways to make your office an inviting space that is conducive to productive work. Although you may think that you know how to create a happy and productive office environment, you may need to make adjustments after COVID-19. Even though safety is important, you should still try to encourage collaborative working where possible, and create areas where employees can socialize safely during their breaks. If the office is looking a little tired, consider decorating it and brightening the place up. If the office is a welcoming, positive environment, it will make the transition a lot easier for your employees.
You are not the only one that has had their world turned upside down by COVID-19. Everybody has been affected in different ways, which is why it’s important to be flexible. People may have family members that are sick or their family situation at home may have changed due to job losses etc. If you just tell your employees that they need to be back at work and do their normal hours, this is going to cause problems for some people as they try to adjust to the new normal. But the silver lining to the COVID-19 cloud is that all businesses are better equipped for flexible working than they have ever been before. Let your employees know that you want people to start returning to the office but you are willing to allow them to work flexible hours. People can still work from home some days and come into the office on other days if it makes life easier for them, and the gradual transition will be a lot smoother. In some cases, you may need to limit the number of people in the office anyway so you can maintain safety.
Be Transparent About Redundancy
Business owners have been forced to make some difficult decisions in the wake of COVID-19. Lost revenue may mean that you need to make some people redundant and even though it’s not a decision that anybody wants to make, there may be no way around it. Handling redundancy in the right way is so important at the minute because all of your employees will be concerned about the safety of their job. Start by calling in the people that you need to lose and having an honest conversation with them about why they are being made redundant. Explaining your difficult position will make it easier for them. You also need to be transparent with the rest of your employees and if there is the potential for more redundancies in the future, you need to be honest about that. You don’t want to tell everybody that their job is safe and then go back on it and make people redundant in the future because that will have a serious impact on company morale.
Offer Mental Health Support
Mental health in the workplace is especially important right now because many of your employees will have been through a difficult period. Coming back to work will also cause a lot of stress and anxiety for many people, so you need to make sure that you take steps to support your employees’ mental health. Let people know that if they are struggling, they should always talk to you so you can discuss their worries and look for ways to relieve their stress in the workplace. Make sure to encourage your employees to take their vacation days as well, so they are not overworked.
Bringing people back to work after COVID-19 is always going to be a tough transition for everybody involved. However, if you keep these things in mind, you can make it a lot easier for your team.