Now that the pandemic is beginning to slow down, companies that are choosing to go back to in-person working models are starting to wonder how they can make their current and prospective employees feel comfortable returning to the office.
While we wish there was one solution to this valid concern, the truth is—there isn’t. Over the last two years, remote work has proven to be a successful and simple transition for many businesses, but this does not mean that it’s the solution for every employee. People work differently under different circumstances, and for some, remote work is not the preferred solution.
Remote workers run into many issues; some of these include difficulty with time management, motivation, or prioritizing their workload. Other at-home stresses include common household distractions and trouble collaborating effectively with peers.
To help employees feel more comfortable returning to the office, it’s good to start by beginning an open discussion with your team to gather feedback on the idea. Listen to their concerns and recommendations to learn what would make them feel the most comfortable. Giving them a safe space where they can express their ideas and concerns will help make them feel heard, but also give you a starting point to work with while a plan is developed for the return to in-office work.
During these discussions, you’re bound to receive diverse input from your team. Therefore, it’s important to remain flexible while developing a plan of action. One of the most common solutions companies are already utilizing is the hybrid workplace model. Before the pandemic, business leaders were set on the belief that the corporate office should be the primary work location for their teams. The reality is, not everyone works best in that setting.
Developing a hybrid workplace model might not only help employees be more productive in a more comfortable environment, but it shows respect for their health and safety concerns. By providing your team with the ability to dictate their preferred work environment, those who feel more comfortable working in-office have the freedom to choose this model, while those who want to work remotely are free to stay home.
An adaptation to the hybrid work environment is an alternating attendance schedule. In the wake of the pandemic, many individuals have residual fear of germ transmission, covid or otherwise. Some people might feel that having too many employees working in relatively close quarters is an easy way to spread germs. To confront this concern, some companies are opting for a rotating attendance schedule where workers alternate between in-office and remote work.
For example, one group of employees will attend in-person on, say, Monday and Wednesday, while others on Tuesday and Thursday. Every Friday, those groups would take turns working in-office. While this type of schedule is not ideal for every company, it’s one that many businesses are beginning to adopt in order to develop a more collaborative, yet accommodating, work environment.
When the pandemic hit, businesses were forced to face the realities of mental health and the impact it had on employees. Creating a safe office environment must include a focus on keeping employee’s mental health in mind, and this focus must continue even after the pandemic diminishes. Ensuring that employees are in a healthy state of mind and body not only helps them to succeed in the workplace, it also helps them in their personal lives.
When your team members don’t feel 100%, how can you expect them to give their all in the office? Consequently, supporting employee mental health results in increased productivity, increased employee retention rates, improved creativity, and more. Now that more companies are taking mental health more seriously, new procedures are being implemented to advocate for their employees. Some of these initiatives include:
• Looking for signs of burnout, change in overall mood, etc.
• Being vulnerable – Sharing your own stories with your team to help them feel comfortable coming to you about their mental health issues if needed.
• Checking in with employees regularly. Ask how they’re doing and if they need any extra support, send out regular mental health check-in evaluations to gauge your team’s overall stress levels, and, overall, build a connection with your team letting them know you care about their wellbeing.
• Offering flexibility – Allow extra time for assignments when needed and provide the option to work from home.
• Investing in mental health training for managers and leaders.
• Providing employees with outside mental health resources.
And finally, perhaps the most obvious way to make employees feel safe transitioning back to the office, prioritize cleanliness and sanitation! If you haven’t already done so, set up sanitation stations throughout the office. Regularly sanitize surfaces, especially those used frequently.
Ensure adequate ventilation in closed spaces. Essentially, make sanitation a priority to reduce the spread of germs to further ensure the physical safety of employees and reduce the spread of illness in the workplace.
Creating a safe and comfortable work environment for your team as you make the transition back to in-person work is essential.
You want your employees to know that you’re actively looking out for their best interest; taking initiative on providing your employees with a safe environment proves that you care. Take time to develop a plan of action for the transition back to the office. Your employees will thank you.