HR Leaders: Return-to-the-workplace project

HR Leaders: Return-to-the-workplace project

Are you responsible for managing the “return to the workplace” project at your company?Aside from the typical social distancing, hand sanitisers, masks etc. here is my guide containing other things to consider.

The current government advice is “Support working from home until lockdown restrictions or social distancing is relaxed.”

So, what happens next and what do we need to think about?

When to return?

Firstly, and a very important point – when you have a “re-exit plan” prepared. If we have learnt something in this pandemic it is definitely how quickly things can change, so before going through the whole process of getting staff back into the office, prepare a plan to re-exit should government guidelines change again, a new sudden restriction or lockdown 4.0 – who knows anymore!

When your employees feel safe, communication is absolute key with your staff. Be transparent and specific about new measures the business has taken. There are many ways to do this without having them in the office, such as booking in virtual training on the new workspace and discussing rules/plans you have implemented. 

Lastly, and maybe an obvious one, but when the government restrictions allow you to. 

Who returns first?

This project could potentially cause some internal upset with employees, the process needs to be fair and understandable; based on the work and role requirements, not the individual worker. 

A lot of companies are creating a shift pattern, sequencing the return. This gives everyone an opportunity to slowly return to the workplace, in a fair way. This also give staff an opportunity to see how they feel and feedback to HR. 

The shift pattern will of course largely depend on individual’s ability to work remotely, requirements each role demands, and specific needs to be in the workplace. Some departments specifically need to be in the workplace at a higher priority, which is completely understandable, it’s all about communicating this to your employees. 

Be flexible, listen to employees, consider which role requires which type of set up and remember everyone is set up differently at home

What’s required in the new workplace?

Employee experience and safety is the priority here. We have had a huge wakeup call through this pandemic with regards to health and wellbeing as a whole, therefore showing your employees how much you care about and prioritise their safety, is crucial.

You will need a clear health and safety process, the standard social distancing, cleanliness, masks etc. is something we are all very aware of now, however this article is more about other things to consider outside of the standard. 

Focus on health and wellbeing upon employees return. Signs of stress, anxiety, childcare struggles, any worries or concerns are likely to crop up in your organisation, the percentage of these issues arising have massively increased in the workplace with many studies to back this up. So prepare for these concerns and plan how you will manage them. 

Another suggestion outside of the standard of what is required in the new workplace is creating a colourful and interactive map/guide for employees to effectively managing their “return-to-work” experience. Communicate the risks and new safety precautions clearly, try and keep it simple, colour coding is a great tool to consider when creating rules in the workspace.

I hope this guide has given you some suggestions you may not have already considered, it’s very easy to get caught up at the moment, with everything going on, government guidelines etc. The legal side of everything is of course priority, however this guide is more about the people behind this. 

Abby