As we peer into the future of a post-COVID world, bringing your workers who were thrown headfirst into the deep waters of remote-work back into the office will be no easy task.
If you are an employer, you might currently be focused on damage control, or trying to gauge the impact COVID has had on your business.
One of those impacts might be the change to your workplace structure.
You may be wondering how it is you are going to create a healthier remote-onsite employee balance.
Luckily, we have put together 5 of the best tips for getting your workers back into the office.
Know your return-to-work plan inside and out
In a time brimming with uncertainty, the workplace needs to become a refuge of sorts. A safe haven in stormy waters. With everything that is going on, the plan you implement to transition your workers back into the office has to be solid. The transition plan must affirm to your workers that coming back into the office is the right thing to do, not fill them with more doubts and concerns.
Sit down with your management teams and gather data from your employees. Ask them, what do they need to see happen for them to feel more confident and excited to come back to the workplace? How can you ensure this transition is seamless, and, more importantly, the right thing to do?
Once you know this vital information, lay out your plans clearly. Do not skimp out on the details. It may be tedious, but having a thorough plan will make you feel more confident, which will rub off onto your employees.
You must be prepared for the questions you will be inevitably asked:
- Will we be alternating between remote work and the office?
- What practices have been put in place to reduce risks of COVID transmission?
- I prefer to start working later in the morning from home, as it means I can get the kids to school. Is this a possibility in the future?
The best way to make sure you have the answers to all these questions is to start talking to your employees now. Get to know their concerns. Understand how this pandemic has affected them. Find out what they expect of the new working world. Once you know these things, you can begin to work on the answers.
Continue to show support to your remote workers
As the working world has been flipped on its head, thousands of American’s have been exposed to the benefits of working from home. One very real possibility that you will have to overcome, is that many of your staff may prefer working from home.
It is important to make sure that this desire isn’t punished or treated as a slight on the company. Doing so could cause employees to look elsewhere to other companies that are moving towards a more remote-working model.
Preventing this from happening is simple. You must approach this issue with a holistic mindset. Being open to the idea will make workers feel they have a choice, reducing the pressure you may be placing on them to come back to the workplace.
Instead, it is your responsibility to make the workplace more appealing.
Up to 65% of remote workers report they feel more productive when not in the office. Some studies are even citing that productivity in remote workers is up 47%.
So, how do you compete with this?
Showing genuine support for your worker’s desires whilst creating a workplace atmosphere that they will naturally want to come back to in their own time is the answer. Host regular screen sharing meetings with those still working remotely, keep them informed with what is happening in the office and show authentic understanding for their desire to continue working at home.
If you sense that the loneliness of remote working may be increasing feelings of anxiety and stress, let them know that they are more than welcome at the office and that the team looks forward to the next time everyone’s having coffee and lunch again.
Stay aware of this silent crisis, as many workers are feeling the negative impacts of social isolation that comes with the remote-working lifestyle.
Having a healthy, open line of communication between yourself, your remote workers and those back in the office space will encourage unity. Over time, the void will fill naturally and the workforce will come back together of its own free will. This flows into the next tip.
Trust your workers and show empathy
Displaying trust in your workers at this time will be repaid tenfold down the track. Everyone is coping with this pandemic as best as they can, with many juggling work commitments with parenthood and other responsibilities. Keep in mind that whilst your workplace may be open for businesses, many schools and daycares are not. Trust your employees who say they need a blended work-life balance to guarantee the safety of their kids.
Also, utilize this time to lead by example. Be empathetic to your workforce – many would have had plans cancelled, dreams put on hold, or even someone close to them die as a result of this pandemic.
Workers will be far more inclined to come back to a workplace in which they feel genuinely valued and cared for. This is an opportunity to actively listen to the needs of your workers. If you respond to them with trust and empathy, you will have demonstrated the values of a true leader.
Consequently, your employees who have felt recognized and valued by your actions will be more likely to come into the workplace and show their support to the company.
Invest in new safety measures
One thing that you will have organized in the return-to-work plans will be the new and improved safety measures. In a recent CISCO study, a staggering 97% of employees want changes to make them feel safer at work.
Knowing this statistic, making your workplace one in which your employees feel safe and comfortable working in should be the number one priority for anyone looking to move their workers back into the office.
Luckily, there are many effective ways to do this.
- Installing digital signage to educate and remind employees of the importance of handwashing, social distancing and other forms of workplace hygiene will reduce the spread of COVID
- Removing hot-desks or similar shared spaces where virus transmission would be more likely to occur
- Regularly wipe down work surfaces, door handles, chairs and other used materials
By making clear efforts to educate and protect your staff, you will make the working environment safer and more alluring for your workforce. Show your workers the steps you are taking to ensure their safety. Brief them on how the whole team can work together in this new environment.
Use technology to your advantage
Investing in new technology that will reduce the chances of employee exposure to COVID will pay dividends for your business. The mere act of purchasing technologies and applications to enable a safer office environment is a powerful statement to your employees that their health and wellbeing is your primary concern.
On top of this, your business will now be up to date with current technologies and trends you may have been avoiding as an expense to the business. Implementing tools such as touchless controls for meeting rooms, screen sharing for larger meetings/gatherings and digital signage into your workplace’s processes could also improve your companies productivity and profit margins.
Many of these new tools that were created prior to COVID were already being adopted for their highly functional use cases, making this the perfect excuse to invest in them.
Tools such as online shared spaces and internal communication boards are a great place to encourage positivity and interaction.
Try to foster an environment where employees feel safe and comfortable talking about their hobbies and activities outside of work, or how they have been handling the stresses of remote work and living. Peer-to-peer communication will help reduce feelings of isolation and may even spur workers on to coming into the office to socialise with their colleagues in person.
Employee scheduling software and applications that accurately track when workers are clocking in and out can also be useful in the unfortunate event of virus transmission. This information stored and recorded by the technology can be used to prevent further occurrences and to inform other workers who may have been exposed to the virus.
Contrary to its rapid onset, the virus’s effects will be long-lasting. As an employer, the actions necessary to move workers back into the office space will need to be well thought out and genuine.
Many workers during this pandemic have seen the possibilities of remote-working, with the majority reporting that they prefer it. It was predicted that a remote-onsite blend was down the pipeline, mainly as a result of technological innovation, but the speed at which we were all thrust into this new system has been hard to adapt to.
As a result, taking the right steps back towards a more balanced remote-onsite blend will be necessary for employers who need to move their workers back into the office.
Thankfully, the very technology that has enabled such productive remote working can be used to the advantage of the employer. Investing in technologies that will give your workers an effective mode of communication, keep them safe and make them feel comfortable to naturally start working from the workplace again will be a key strategy to bring workers back into the office.