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After a year of remote and hybrid work arrangements, several UK companies have begun planning their return to the office. While teleworking may have advantages like more flexibility, for one, it’s still essential for many businesses to have a physical workplace where staff could meet and collaborate.

But asking employees to come back to the workplace during this time is not an easy feat. Not only do you have to recalibrate your office to accommodate regular and thorough disinfection, you may also need to impose protocols such as wearing a mask, submitting to temperature checks, and routine COVID-19 tests. Additionally, you’ll also need to take into account your employees’ mental well-being. There is much anxiety surrounding going back to the workplace, and you can help them ease their worries. Here are some steps you can take:

Maintain Health Protocols

First and foremost, you should keep in mind that this time is like no other, and you’re not asking your staff to return to work for no reason. The moment they clock into work, you’re already partly responsible for their well-being, and they trust that you do your part, even as restrictions are slowly being eased.

Initiatives you can implement are limiting in-person meetings, social distancing measures, disinfecting protocols in high-traffic areas, and filling out safety checklists. Once you’ve introduced these practices, it would be best if your management routine included providing training to staff to ensure understanding of these safety measures, continually insisting on adherence, and offering encouragement to help them abide by each and every one. Having them involved in enforcing these protocols is important as this helps ease stress and gives them a proactive role in curbing the spread of the virus. This way, they hold a certain level of control over their health, too. After all, it’s their safety that’s on the line.

Invest in their well-being

Employees need to see that you’re putting them first if you want them to feel valued when they return to the workplace. For instance, Apple decided to offer paid sick days to their workers globally, while TSB Bank CEO Debbie Crosbie pledged to forego 2020 bonuses to provide better rewards to staff who are working hard to help customers deal with COVID-19. Employees who are stressed from a number of different reasons—from their commutes, mismanagement, or even from not getting enough time to rest—take more time off and are generally less productive. This could spell trouble for your company’s output and overall performance.

It’s only right that you put your employees’ safety above profits and take care of them the best way you can, so you must implement initiatives that prioritise their well-being. While you don’t necessarily have to follow the footsteps of these companies, you could start by providing masks, implementing appropriate safety measures, and offering employee support, such as Employee Assistance Programmes. These types of initiatives ensure that their mental health and well-being is also taken care of. And just like how you supported them while teleworking, it’s also worth providing equipment that can help them stay productive and motivated while working. You could invest in standing desks, ergonomic peripherals, and even on-site health services. It would be best if you pulled out all the stops in making sure that they’re well taken care of to ease their reentry anxiety.

Open lines of communication

Research shows that employees who receive regular updates from their superiors are more inclined to have positive views of their employers. Not only that, but they are also more likely to be proud of where they work and even look forward to returning to the office. During this critical time, it’s imperative that you dispense practical information on the pandemic’s impact on the organisation, as well as actionable tips on how your employees can better mitigate its adverse effects.

It’s always a must to maintain a pattern of open two-way communication in order for your staff to not be afraid of voicing out their concerns. You should also remain transparent about what your organisation knows and doesn’t know, and provide stronger acknowledgment of how challenging the situation is. Employees also appreciate more information about sick days, personal days, and other benefits to deal with sick family members, and of course, resources for emotional and mental health, including tackling stress and anxiety.

The pandemic has affected employees in different ways; this means that there’s a need for you to take time and really listen to different cases. By returning to the office, workers rely on you to take care of them, both physically and mentally.


Written by: Amy Canterbury

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